Poland’s problematic plans to procure new helicopters for its armed forces could begin to make progress by year-end, according to local media reports.
Warsaw controversially cancelled a proposed tri-service acquisition of 50 Airbus Helicopters H225Ms in October after failing to agree an industrial offset deal with the manufacturer.
However, the requirement for new rotorcraft is still pressing, notably for naval search and rescue and special forces missions.
In October defence minister Antoni Macierewicz suggested that Poland had chosen the Sikorsky S-70i Black Hawk for the special forces requirement, to be produced locally by PZL Mielec. However, the government has now denied that any selection has been made.
Deputy defence minister Bartosz Kownacki, writing in response to an enquiry from an opposition politician, stresses that “no procedure has been initiated or is ongoing” regarding the acquisition of Black Hawks.
Instead, he says, a team is working on an accelerated procurement process under an urgent operational requirement – the first step of which is an emergency market analysis.
This report is likely to be finalised over the coming weeks, and talks with potential bidders could begin by year-end. However, it is more likely that the formal process will start in early 2017, leading to contract talks later in the year; first deliveries are likely to be in 2017 or 2018, the Dziennik Gazeta Prawna newspaper reports.
Little detail has been revealed about which helicopters are in the running, however. All three initial bidders – Airbus Helicopters, Leonardo and Sikorsky – have been in talks with Warsaw, and Bell Helicopter has also registered its interest in the revived contest.
The S-70i is still thought to be the favourite for the special forces requirement, with the H225M facing competition from the larger AgustaWestland AW101 for SAR operations.