Sikorsky’s Polish subsidiary PZL Mielec already appears to be
benefiting from the collapse of acquisition talks between its rival Airbus
Helicopters and the Warsaw government.
Last week the country’s ministry of economic development ended
nearly 18 months of protracted wrangling over a 50-unit commitment for H225M
Caracal helicopters. It cited irreconcilable differences about the level of
industrial offset proposed, which it said needed to equal the Zl13 billion
($3.4 billion) of the main contract.
However, all three branches of Poland’s armed forces still
require new helicopters and its defence ministry has wasted little time in
pushing business towards PZL Mielec, which assembles the S-70i Black Hawk for
the international market.
During a visit to the firm’s assembly facility, defence minister
Antoni Macierewicz said it would work to quickly finalise a deal for S-70is for
operation by Polish special forces.
“After the talks with the Mielec chief executive I’m sure we
will start negotiations this week and will finalise it before year end. In this
year also the first helicopters will be delivered,” Macierewicz says.
No quantities were given, but Poland has previously indicated a
requirement for 10-12 special forces-roled helicopters; these are likely to be
in a similar configuration to the armed variant the company displayed at July’s
Farnborough air show.
Sikorsky indicted at the show that selection by Poland could
open the door to similar deals across the region for customers looking to
replace their fleets of Mil Mi-24s.
Macierewicz says that it hopes to conclude further agreements
“as soon as possible” with Polish industry for multirole helicopters.
That also potentially opens the door to Leonardo’s Polish
subsidiary PZL Swidnik, which had also been lobbying hard for the
AgustaWestland AW149 to be considered instead of the Caracal.
“This matter is extremely urgent and necessary,” says
Macierewisz, who says that the acquisition will be “open and will be available,
of course, for all manufacturers”.
However, he does not rule out placing sole-source contracts
rather than running a competitive tender and is analysing both options.
He says the Airbus Helicopters proposal did not offer enough to
Polish industry, particularly the development of its rotorcraft sector, with
the parties several billion zlotys apart.
“Negotiations were not broken, but ended without a positive
result,” says deputy prime minister and minister of development Mateusz
“We conducted the negotiations in a very good faith, proposing
offset solutions. Offset must be offset. I cannot disclose more details because
of commercial confidentiality,” he says.