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Poland inducts first Merlin ASW helicopters

Poland began receiving into service the first of its Leonardo AW101 Merlin helicopters on 8 December. (General Command of the Polish Armed Forces)

Poland has begun inducting into service the first of four Leonardo AW101 Merlin helicopters it ordered in 2019 to satisfy its anti-submarine warfare (ASW) and combat search-and-rescue (CSAR) requirements.

The Polish Navy and the General Command of the Armed Forces announced the milestone on 8 December, saying that three helicopters are now with the Naval Aviation Brigade at Darłowo. The fourth of the UK-built helicopters is being fitted out with Polish national systems at PZL-Świdnik, ahead of delivery to Darłowo in early 2024.

“The final stage of the process of implementing AW101 helicopters [into the navy] has begun,” the General Command of the Armed Forces said.

The Polish Ministry of National Defence (MND) is acquiring the Merlins to replace the Warsaw Pact-era Mil Mi-14 ‘Haze' ASW helicopters in service with the Polish Navy. While the initial order was for four helicopters, there may be a follow-on order for a further four at a later date.

Further to the maritime Merlin deal, the Polish MND has disclosed that it is to buy 22 land-rolled Merlins for the army. These Merlin acquisitions are part of Poland's wider helicopter procurement plans that will see the country receive the first of 32 AW149 support helicopters (deliveries of which began in October), the first of eight loaned US Army AH-64E attack helicopters in 2024, ahead of the first of an anticipated 96 newbuild AH-64E helicopters in 2026, and potentially 32 Lockheed Martin S-70i Black Hawk helicopters to follow at an as-yet undeclared date.

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