Polish armed forces are to deploy eight PZL SwidnikW-3WASokols and four Mil Mi-8/17 Hip helicopters to Iraq as part of Warsaw's commitment to the US-led coalition. This is the first deployment of Polish helicopters on international operations. The helicopters will be used for logistic/quick reaction operations within the Polish controlled area. Although Polish troops have arrived in Iraq, the helicopters are not due to arrive until September or October. The Polish zone will be a multinational area and it is expected that Ukraine may also send Mi-8/17s to Iraq.

Polish defence minister Jerzy Szmajdzinski says the Iraq operation may force Warsaw to increase its investment in transport aircraft. Up to six Lockheed Martin C-130 Hercules could be acquired, he says. Poland's lack of long-range transport forced use of a World Airways McDonnell Douglas DC-10 and a US Air Force Boeing C-17 for the initial deployment.

For now Poland is relying on its Soviet-era Antonov An-26s with two EADS Casa C295s expected to be added to the fleet by year-end.

Source: Flight International