In what has become a recurring ritual for Polish helicopter acquisition programs since April 2015 when its previous government down-selected the Airbus Helicopters H225M Caracal to meet a medium-lift utility requirement, Poland has scrapped a tender in order to push it back on the modernization priorities list.
The latest project involved the procurement of eight combat search and rescue (CSAR) helicopters. The tender had attracted three bidders, including a consortium of Airbus Helicopters and Heli Invest, PZL Meilec/Sikorsky, and Leondardo’s Polish arm, PZL Swidnik.
The Defense Ministry’s procurement arm, the Armament Inspectorate, informed these bidders on June 11 that the invitation to submit final offers was being withdrawn.
This was followed two days later by Defense Minister Mariusz Blszczak’s denial that the project had been cancelled – it had just been “re-prioritized” against other programs, meaning pushed back to the end of the modernization queue without a definite procurement timeline being offered.
Now it appears the acquisition of four anti-submarine warfare (ASW) mission-type helicopters equipped for an ancillary combat search-and-rescue (CSAR) mission requirement will be the rotor-wing project most likely to be pursued. These new units will serve as a replacement for the four-unit inventory of Kaman SH-2G(PL) Super Seasprites used in Polish Navy service.
Meanwhile a requirement for procuring attack helicopters under the Kruk program is on course to proceed post-2022 under modernization plans, while the utility helicopter initiative first outlined in March 2012 will instead be pushed back beyond 2026 as the Defense Ministry opts to overhaul its current fleet of Russian-legacy Mi-8 and Mi-17s along with PZL Swidnik W-3s in order to maintain their airworthiness for another decade.