Poland has begun the final stages of its utility helicopter procurement programme, the country's Ministry of Defence (MoD) has announced.
Companies bidding in the tender, through which Poland is seeking to buy 70 medium-lift utility helicopters, have been asked to submit their final offers by the end of September 2014, according to the MoD.
The new helicopters are intended to replace the country's ageing fleet of Mil Mi-8/17 'Hip' utility and Mi-14 'Haze' anti-submarine warfare (ASW) helicopters. The new helicopters will be deployed across the Polish Armed Forces, serving as multirole transports, combat search and rescue (CSAR), maritime CSAR, and ASW platforms.
Local industry involvement is a key part of the tender and all three companies bidding for the competition have a footprint in Poland via acquisitions or teaming agreements with local partners. Airbus Helicopters has teamed with Heli Invest/WZL-1 to offer the EC725 Caracal; PZL Mielec (a Sikorsky subsidiary) is offering the S-70i Black Hawk; and PZL Swidnik (an AgustaWestland subsidiary) is offering the AW149.
Poland began its medium-lift utility helicopter programme in March 2012, which at that time called for only 26 helicopters for an entry to service in 2014. In September 2012 the programme was expanded to 70 aircraft and, although Poland had hoped to sign a contract in late 2013, this timeline has slipped, with contract signature now not expected until the beginning of 2015.
The utility helicopter programme comes under Poland's ambitious 'Technical Modernisation Programme 2013-2022', which also includes the 'Kruk' programme to purchase 32 attack helicopters to replace the country's ageing Mil Mi-24D/W 'Hind-D/E' combat helicopters. Poland announced in late May that it is planning to accelerate the Kruk programme because of the continuing crisis in Ukraine. It is now expected to be launched in 2015-16 instead of 2018 as originally envisaged. Poland's 2013-2022 modernisation programme also includes the purchase of light-utility and heavy-lift helicopters.