Polish prime minister Donald Tusk has announced that a previously planned order for 26 new military helicopters will be expanded to a roughly 70-aircraft deal.

Defence minister Tomasz Siemoniak should launch the new process early this month, clearing the way for technical consultations to start with bidding manufacturers. Contenders are AgustaWestland, Eurocopter with the EC725, PZL Swidnik with the AgustaWestland AW149, and Sikorsky, which is offering the S-70i.

Worth an estimated zlotych (Zl) 10 billion ($3.1 billion), the expanded contest will seek to acquire 48 tactical transports for the land forces, 10 search and rescue (SAR) helicopters for the air force, and six anti-submarine warfare and six maritime SAR aircraft for the navy.

"We expect that the tender will be launched at the turn of 2012 and 2013," says Waldemar Skrzypczak, the defence ministry’s undersecretary of state responsible for modernisation of the armed forces. "By May 2013 we should sign final agreements with manufacturers."

Deliveries should start in 2014-2015, and conclude during 2022.

 Polish Mi-17 - Polish defence ministry

Polish defence ministry

The new aircraft will replace Mi-8/17 transports flown by the Polish Land Forces

Skrzypczak says the selected helicopters should be produced in Poland, with the maximum amount of local content. "We will not buy helicopters from manufacturers who will not share technology and source codes, and will not establish service and repair centres in Poland," he adds. The sole provider of maintenance, repair and overhaul services will be the Military Aviation Works (WZL-1) in Lodz.

Poland’s earlier requirement had been based on the use of a common platform type, but the expanded requirement will allow manufacturers to offer other models for some tasks.

Warsaw also plans to launch a tender in 2018 to replace its Mil Mi-24 attack helicopters, and also intends to acquire a new rotorcraft for VIP transport tasks.

Source: Flight International