The helicopters will be used for anti-submarine warfare (ASW) and search and rescue (SAR) tasks. The contract for the procurement of helicopters is expected to be signed by the end of the month.
The Polish Navy planned to acquire eight maritime helicopters to replace its ageing 10 Mi-14 helicopters currently in operation with its naval aviation (eight Mi-14PLMKs and two search and rescue Mi-14PL/R). However, in 2018, due to financial reasons, the Ministry of National Defense of Poland reduced the number of naval helicopters planned for acquisition to four, postponing the purchase of another four.
In February 2017, the Polish Defense Ministry began negotiations on the purchase on a competitive basis for eight (initially) maritime helicopters with three companies: the Polish factory PZL Mielec, representing the American Sikorsky Aircraft (owned by Lockheed Martin; the MH-60R helicopter was offered), the Polish factory WSK PZL -Swidnik, representing Italy’s Leonardo (AW101), and Airbus Helicopters (H225M Caracal). In March 2017, only WSK PZL-Swidnik / Leonardo and Airbus Helicopters submitted their offers. However, in June 2018, the Polish Ministry of National Defense decided to reduce the number of procured naval helicopters to four and revise a number of technical requirements for them, after which, in December 2018, Airbus Helicopters refused to participate in the tender, and the Leonardo Helicopters AW101 became the only candidate.
The cost of the contract for the purchase of four AW101, according to Polish media reports, will be about 90 million euros.
The offset package agreement signed on April 8 includes nine commitments, the main of which is the planned creation of a AW101 helicopter maintenance and repair center jointly with Leonardo on the basis of the Polish aircraft repair plant Wojskowe Zakłady Lotnicze Nr 1 S.A. (WZL-1) in Lodz. Leonardo also pledged to provide technical support for the operation of the acquired helicopters for 10 years.