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Poland picks Black Hawks after end of H225M talks

Sikorsky’s Polish subsidiary PZL Mielec already appears to be benefiting from the collapse of acquisition talks between its rival Airbus Helicopters and the Warsaw government.

Last week the country’s ministry of economic development ended nearly 18 months of protracted wrangling over a 50-unit commitment for H225M Caracal helicopters. It cited irreconcilable differences about the level of industrial offset proposed, which it said needed to equal the Zl13 billion ($3.4 billion) of the main contract.

However, all three branches of Poland’s armed forces still require new helicopters and its defence ministry has wasted little time in pushing business towards PZL Mielec, which assembles the S-70i Black Hawk for the international market.

During a visit to the firm’s assembly facility, defence minister Antoni Macierewicz said it would work to quickly finalise a deal for S-70is for operation by Polish special forces.

“After the talks with the Mielec chief executive I’m sure we will start negotiations this week and will finalise it before year end. In this year also the first helicopters will be delivered,” Macierewicz says.

No quantities were given, but Poland has previously indicated a requirement for 10-12 special forces-roled helicopters; these are likely to be in a similar configuration to the armed variant the company displayed at July’s Farnborough air show.

Sikorsky indicted at the show that selection by Poland could open the door to similar deals across the region for customers looking to replace their fleets of Mil Mi-24s.

Macierewicz says that it hopes to conclude further agreements “as soon as possible” with Polish industry for multirole helicopters.

That also potentially opens the door to Leonardo’s Polish subsidiary PZL Swidnik, which had also been lobbying hard for the AgustaWestland AW149 to be considered instead of the Caracal.

“This matter is extremely urgent and necessary,” says Macierewisz, who says that the acquisition will be “open and will be available, of course, for all manufacturers”.

However, he does not rule out placing sole-source contracts rather than running a competitive tender and is analysing both options.

He says the Airbus Helicopters proposal did not offer enough to Polish industry, particularly the development of its rotorcraft sector, with the parties several billion zlotys apart.

“Negotiations were not broken, but ended without a positive result,” says deputy prime minister and minister of development Mateusz Morawiecki.

“We conducted the negotiations in a very good faith, proposing offset solutions. Offset must be offset. I cannot disclose more details because of commercial confidentiality,” he says.

Additional reporting by Dominic Perry in London

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