Window shopping again, or more than that this time? After several failed attempts and growing friction with suppliers, Poland is having another go at beefing up its helicopter capabilities. The country is looking for eight anti-submarine choppers plus another eight helos for use by special forces, the ministry of Defense in Warsaw said on Monday 20 February.
Airbus Helicopters, Leonardo Helicopters and Lockheed Martin have been asked to come up with bids. The new choppers should replace ageing Mi-8 Hip and Mi-14 Haze helicopters that have been in Polish services for decades already, dating back to Eastern Bloc-times.
For Airbus Helicopters, this newest Polish tender will breng back the headaches that came with the selection of the H225 Caracal by Poland back in April 2015. After much hassle, that 3 billion USD deal was finally scrapped last year. Lockheed Martin (after taking over helicopters manufacturer Sikorsky first) then seemed to have the best cards for a Polish helicopter deal. However, that too appeared to be window shopping in the end.
Some interesting news about the Russian Helicopters Mi-17 helicopters in recent days. The first is the delivery of a second batch of Mi-171 helicopters to the Angolan Air Force. Besides that, as announced on Tuesday 29 March, it seems that Russian Helicopters is close to reach agreement for the long-term service contract with India for the Mi-17 types in service.
“We have conducted negotiations with our Indian partners and we plan to sign a contract that will lay the foundation for collaboration between Russian Helicopters and India in an entirely new way. The company is shifting from offering separate services to providing comprehensive after-sales support. The possibility of such collaboration is now being discussed with the Air Force, Navy and border patrol troops of India,” said Igor Chechikov, Russian Helicopter’s deputy CEO at Defexpo India 2016.
“For us, it will be the first long-term service contract with India. Set prices and delivery dates for supplying equipment needed to repair our helicopters are among the advantages of this type of contract. It will boost Russian-made helicopters’ after-sales system to a new level.”
Mi-17 helicopters in India
According to the preliminary agreement, Russian Helicopters will provide repairs to Mi-17 type helicopters and will supply spare parts for them throughout the entire life cycle of the rotorcraft. Repairs of helicopters operated in India will be performed by enterprises belonging to Russian Helicopters holding company.
The contract life cycle is expected to be 3 – 5 years. Its further extension, as well as an expansion of helicopter models covered by the after-sales support system, are also being considered.
Second batch of Mi-171s to Angola
Recently, a batch of 4 Mi-171Sh helicopters has been delivered to Angola. The helicopters produced by JSC Ulan-Ude aviation plant (operating as part of Russian Helicopters) were supplied in addition to another four delivered to the customer in 2015. The rotorcraft supply contract was concluded by JSC Rosoboronexport.
The helicopters delivered to Angola are fitted with modern flight and navigation equipment optimizing the flight profile and increasing flight safety.
India recently received the last batch of 151 Mi-17V-5 Hip transport helicopters, Russian defense export agency Russian Helicopters reported on Tuesday 2 February. The helicpoters were produced by JSC Kazan Helicopters. According to the same report, India is planning to order another 48 choppers for use with the Indian Air Force.
“India is one of the key markets for Russian helicopter building industry and the largest operator of Russian-made helicopters in the South-East Asia. Today, this country uses more than 400 helicopters, which have proved themselves well,” said Russian Helicopter CEO Alexander Mikheev. The company also claims the Mi-17V-5 helicopters supplied to India are some of the best technically equipped helicopters of the Mi-8/17 series, using the best solutions of previous generations.
Every Indian Mi-17V-5 helicopter is fitted with a KNEI-8 avionics suite. The suite has replaced multiple systems indicators with four large multi-functional that are easy to read and reduce the pilot’s workload. This avionics suite also helps to cut down pre-flight inspection time by displaying all systems data and alerting the crew when necessary. Also, the helicopters supplied to India are equipped with the latest and more powerful engines, which enhance payload carriage capability at higher altitudes – useful in the mountainous Indian landscape.
As recently announced, Russia and India have started to implement a project aimed at manufacturing no less than 200 light multirole Ka-226T helicopters, as reported here at Airheadsfly.com already last year. According to documents signed by the governments of the two countries, no less than 200 of the Ka-226T helicopters and their modifications will be manufactured in India. The agreement also includes maintenance, operation, repairs of helicopters and provision of technical support.
UPDATED 27 January | Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic all are on the verge of replacing their fleets of Mil Mi-8/17 transport helicopters as well as Mi-24 Hind attack helicopters. Although each country seems to be heading down a different path, Bell Helicopter offers potentials for a joint program.
Update: according to Poland’s deputy defense minister on 26 January, a deal for Caracal helicopters now looks ‘very unlikely’.
In Poland, a multirole rotorcraft tender was won last year by Airbus Helicopters’ H225 Caracal, but after a change of government negotiations regarding offset investments are still ongoing. A spokesperson at Airbus Helicopters on Friday stated that ‘things seems to be moving in the right direction again’.
In the neighbouring Czech Republic, the air force flies 16 quite modern transport Mil Mi-171Sh helos, acquired from Russia in 2005 and recently upgraded with new communication, navigation and electrooptical equipment. The Czechs expect their Mi-171s to be used for at least one more decade, after which new helos will take their place as well as the place of current Mi-24 attack choppers. The new helicopters must be able to carry six to eight soldiers and be fitted out with guns plus guided and unguided rockets.
Previous plans of buying 12 machines are now revised in favour of a larger batch of 30-35 helicopters, due to better funding available in short term. Last year Czech MoD issued an request for information (RFI) to manufacturers of medium multirole helicopters; all Western producers responded with offers. Italian AgustaWestland offered the AW139, while Bell Helicopters is offering a tandem of its UH-1Y Venom and AH-1Z Viper used by the United States Marines Corps (USMC). Airbus Helicopters will most probably offer the Caracal just like it did in Poland, or the nine ton AS532ALe Cougar.
A preselection of preferred candidates is expected during the first half of 2016, with first deliveries planned a year or two later. Taking into account the strong presence of Bell Helicopters on the Czech civil rotorcraft market and police aviation using five Bell 412 helicopters, the UH-1Y is seen as strong contender. Bell in its offer underscores the possibility of establishing a joint Czech-Polish maintenance and training center if Poland also selects the Viper as a future attack chopper.
As for industrial offset, there’s rather small chance of licence production of selected type in Czech Republic, but some overhaul capabilities may be handed over to Czech industry. AgustaWestland has already signed an Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with LOM Praha for maintenance support, provided AW139 is selected.
The Russian Army Aviation Squadron at Erebuni Airbase in Armenia is now fully up to speed. The last helicopters that arrived in December 2015 have been assembled, and are now added to the fleet.
With the final choppers ready for action the squadron at Erebuni tends to keep 10 attack and assault helicopters operational at all times, comprising a mixed fleet of Mil Mi-24 Hinds and Mi-8 Hips, according to a statement of the Russian Ministry of Defence. The goal is to have a total of 18 Mi-24P (Hind-F) and Mi-8MT/SMVs at the base, with some of those held in reserve.
The squadron pilots are now flight testing and commenced training on the latest machines, flying at 300 to more than 10,000 feet in various weather conditions on different mission types, day and night. Steady part of the training is conducting combat simulation in mountainous areas.
The 3624th Air Base Erebuni is also home to a Russian Air Force squadron which aims to have up to sixteen MiG-29 on strength, as well as much of the small Armenian Air Force. The base and civilian airport is located nearby the Armenian capital of Yerevan, at 3,000 feet above sea level and surrounded by a mountain range.