Quote the Raven: Poland’s Attack Helicopter Competition
Recent Russian aggression in the Ukraine has sharpened Poland’s awareness of its status as NATO’s new linchpin state, and an ambitious 10-year military Technical Modernization Program (TMP) is underway. The country’s open, rolling terrain from East to West is very friendly to cavalry warfare, which makes good attack helicopters a necessity. Poland’s current fleet of 29 late Soviet-era Mi-24D/Vs has served them well, but they need more and better machines. Unsurprisingly, the planned Kruk (“Raven”) attack helicopter replacement competition was one of the TMP projects targeted for acceleration in the wake of recent events.
Contracts and Key Events
FY 2015 – 2016
October 8/15: Poland has progressed its competition to replace the country’s fleet of Mil Mi-24 attack helicopters, with talks scheduled to soon begin with the four bidders. The ‘Kruk’ (‘Raven’) competition has attracted bids from Airbus with the EC665 Tiger; Bell Helicopters with the AH-1Z Cobra; Boeing with the AH-64 Apache and Turkish Aerospace Industries with the T129 ATAK. Despite the Polish Defence Ministry announcing in April that a winner is due for selection by the end of the year, these talks are scheduled to last one week per company, concluding by the end of November and a contract is now expected in the latter half of 2017.
Aug 5/14: The Polish defence ministry has said that it is considering bids from 10 manufacturers under the Kruk competition. They wouldn’t name names, saying only that it involved “foreign and domestic companies offering both ready-made helicopters and components for assembly.”
The difference between ready-made and assembly kits is a bidder’s choice, and the kits option is often used to comply with local industrial offset rules. The harder question is how to get to 10 manufacturers, given the limited number of attack helicopter options out there.
Obvious leaders include Airbus (EC665 Tiger HAD), AW/TAI (T129 ATAK), Bell Helicopter (AH-1Z) and Boeing (AH-64E). South Africa’s Denel offers the Rooivalk, which hasn’t been exported but has competed elsewhere. Sikorsky is working very hard to win Poland’s utility helicopter competition with the S-70i, which is the focus of that company’s 2nd largest helicopter plant. Their Battlehawk add-on kit could offer Poland a single-type force that’s able to perform both utility and attack roles. That’s 6 possible competitors; beyond this list, one must either stretch the boundaries of the term “attack helicopter” to incorporate armed scouts, or entertain far less likely options. Russian Helicopters’ Ka-52 and Mi-28 are absolute non-starters, but there are rumors that Poland’s MRO and upgrade shop WZL-2 S.A. has bid, and that Israel’s IAI and RAFAEL also responded. Sources: Polskie Radio, “10 bidders to modernize Poland’s combat helicopter fleet”.
July 8/14: Kruk program launched, deadline to respond to the RFI is Aug 1/14. The program was originally supposed to launch a tender in 2018, with deliveries beginning in 2020, but the tender has now been moved up to 2015. Quantities may also be changing: the program’s original goal was 32 helicopters, but current reports indicate that Poland may increase that to 40.
In the mean time, Phase 1 involves setting technical and operational requirements, following market research. Hence the RFI. Next comes a more detailed feasibility study and staffing requirements based on the responses, followed by the formal RFP in 2015. Sources: Polish MON, “Rusza program smiglowcow uderzeniowych” | Emirates 24/7 News, “Poland launches tender for assault helicopters” | Flightglobal, “Poland launches attack helicopter acquisition” | IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, “Poland starts ‘Kruk’ attack helicopter acquisition programme”.
Thanks for tips to: Lukasz Pacholski.
- DID – AH-64E Apache Block III: The Once and Future Attack Helicopter.
- DID – Snakes and Rotors: The USMC’s H-1 Helicopter Program. Includes the AH-1Z.
- DID – Armed & Versatile: Sikorsky’s ‘Battlehawk’ Helicopters. Based on the UH-60M/ S-70i. UAE was the launch customer, and Israel has tested a more extensive conversion.
- Airbus Helicopters – EC665 Tiger.
- Army Technology – Rooivalk Attack Helicopter, South Africa.
- DID – Turkey Finally Lands Its Attack Helicopters. The T-129 ATAK.
News & Views
- The Economist (July 26/14) – A front-line state.
- Reuters (July 15/14) – Airbus offers Poland core status in helicopter bid. Refers to utility helicopters (AW149 vs. EC725 vs. S-70i), but industrial considerations transfer over.