Poland has changed its priorities regarding acquisition of the helicopters. The general-purpose combat helicopter was to be the first purchase of the Polish Armed Forces, but now the weight has been shifted towards the assault choppers.
The original modernization plan for the Polish Armed Forces saw the Mi-24 Hind helicopters replaced not before 2020-22.
However, the ageing Hind gunships could make room to a new chopper as early as 2017, whereas the tender for the utility helicopter has been postponed.
There may be several reasons behind the decision to review the plans, including the Ukrainian crisis and the need to face Russian Mi-28 Havocs, several of those have been deployed to Kaliningrad Oblast, quite close to the Polish northern border.
According to Gazeta Wyborcza, one of the leading Polish dailies, the military officials claim that Mi-24 Hinds no longer have a high combat value. The trends in development of the assault helicopters are quite different from the concept that was driving the development progress of Mi-24 which could be treated as a beefed-up version of Huey with its 8-person transport capacity in the cabin placed within the fuselage. Contemporary assault gunships are more of CAS-tools, with much less transport-related capabilities.
Gazeta Wyborcza daily is quoting the Polish strategists who point out that in case of the Ukrainian crisis, the Ukrainian Army was unable to deploy units quick enough to face the Russian invasion.
Quick deployment is one of the key elements of the defensive operations, and this cannot be realized without CAS (Close Air Support) from the helicopters or assault aircraft. Since acquisition of the A-10 is quite unrealistic, assault choppers may be an appropriate solution.
The value of the attack helicopter bid is estimated to be 1 billion Euro, worth one of the biggest chopper procurement deal issued by a NATO member state.
Possible choices? AW-129 Mangusta and AH-64 Apache.
They are not to be produced in Poland, contrary to what is going to happen in case of the Polish utility helicopter tender.
The AH-64 is quite an expensive whereas the AW-129 is significantly cheaper. However, it will be the situation in eastern Europe and the diplomatic relations between U.S., Italy and Poland rather than the performance, payload and capabilities of the helicopters, to play a major role in the tender.
Jacek Siminski for TheAviationist
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