Andrzej Jeziorski/MUNICH

The new Solidarity Government in Poland is threatening to cancel the controversial avionics and weapons tender for the planned PZL-Swidnik Huzar battlefield helicopter.

Programme sources say that the current tender could be dropped if no compromise agreement is reached between Boeing, which is offering an international avionics package with the integration of any missile Poland chooses, and Israeli firms Elbit and Rafael, which are offering Israeli avionics and the new NT-D anti-tank missile.

An inter-Government agreement, selecting Israel as a partner for the programme, was signed under questionable circumstances by former economy minister Wieslaw Kaczmarek during his last days in office, immediately after the defeat of his party in October's parliamentary elections. The new Government has distanced itself from this agreement (Flight International, 26 November-2 December), refusing to ratify it, and has launched an interministerial investigation into the circumstances surrounding it.

The issue has been further complicated by reports in late November of a deal with Dassault Electronique of France for the separate supply of radar-warning receivers (RWRs) for the Huzar, with SNPE supplying chaff-and-flare dispensers.

Swidnik says that a contract was signed with Dassault at this year's Paris air show for one RWR with a dispenser, to be tested on the current Sokol in the first quarter of 1998. The deal was not solely for the Huzar programme, and has no impact on the selection of the weapons system or the systems integrator, says the company.

The avionics and weapons agreement is now also being questioned in Israel, where the chairman of the Knesset defence committee, Efraim Sneh, has warned that a deal with Poland could lead indirectly to Israeli defence technology falling into the hands of hostile countries.

Polish defence minister Janusz Onyszkiewicz says that the former Government's decision to sign up with Israel was "-flawed, to put it very mildly". A new tender is possible, he says, adding that, from now on, "-the most important thing will be the interests of the armed forces" and the need for visibly fair competition.

Neither solution being considered by the Government, however, has been welcomed by Swidnik. The option of allowing the competing bidders to strike a deal among themselves is regarded as an abdication of Government responsibility by the manufacturer, while a new tender will inevitably hold up the already-delayed programme still further.

"Meanwhile, Swidnik is left sitting here with less and less money, and one can only hope the patient will survive until a decision is finally made," says the manufacturer.

The company is surviving on sporadic sales of the W-3 Sokol - upon which the Huzar is based - and the Kania derivative of the Mil Mi-2 helicopter.

Swidnik is desperate for the 100-helicopter Huzar deal for Poland's armed forces, which could lead to lucrative military exports.

Source: Flight International