PARIS --- The Polish government has decided to buy four AgustaWestland AW101 to replace its current fleet of Mil Mi-14 Haze naval helicopters, and pending contract signature by the end of April, it signed an offset agreement with prime contractor Leonardo on Monday.
“We will sign the main contract later this month. I am very happy that….we have prepared and negotiated [an] agreement, which this time will be signed in Świdnik, for helicopters for the Polish Navy, because we conclude equipment contracts with companies that produce in Poland,” Polish Defence Minister Mariusz Błaszczak said on Monday after signing the offset contract.
The AW101 contract, like the contract awarded in January for four Black Hawk, are being awarded through the prime contractors’ Polish subsidiaries, PZL Mielec for Sikorsky and PZL Swidnik for Leonardo, which will also be responsible for sustainment.
The Polish Navy now operates six Mil Mi-14 Haze naval helicopters, two for Search And Rescue (SAR) and four for anti-submarine warfare (ASW). Originally due to be replaced by eight new helicopters, they will be replaced by an initial batch of four AW101 configured for ASW, but with a secondary Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR) role.
The offset agreement signed on Monday with Leonardo MW Ltd., the Italian group’s British subsidiary, is valued at nearly 395 million PLN (nearly 90 million euros), and calls for establishing in-country maintenance capabilities for the AW101, covering the airframes as well as their mission equipment. The new facility will be co-located in Lodz, together with the Military Aviation Works No.1 in Łódź, part of the Polish Armaments Group (PGZ). Gdańsk Technical University will also benefit from the Offset Agreement.
The AW101 order, following the order for four Sikorsky S-70 Black Hawks awarded in January for the Polish special forces, continues the long-delayed replacement of Russian helicopters bought from the Soviet Union after an over-ambitious plan to buy 50 Airbus H225M Cougar helicopters was canceled when the present government took office.
Poland’s Naval Aviation Brigade carried out a final evaluation of the AW-101’s performance in mid-February, when an aircraft belonging to the Norwegian Coast Guard flew into Gdynia from AgustaWestland facility in Yeovil, England, according to Defense24.com.
“The helicopter tested in Gdynia features several unique solutions, as per Norwegian specs. These elements include AESA radar with antenna arrays placed on the fuselage and a system that makes it possible to locate people on the basis of the signals emitted by their mobile phones. Not only does it make possible to find such a missing person, as it also allows the crew to contact that person which really facilitates SAR operations in the areas where no network coverage is available. The rescue crew may communicate with that person via voice or text, or send emergency messages to any recipient reachable”, Defense24.com reported.