At MSPO 2019 in Kielce, a number of companies presented their helicopter proposals to Poland, which has been trying to modernise its fleet of both multirole and assault helicopters.

One concept was showcased by Leonardo and Poland’s PGZ (Polska Grupa Zbrojeniowa) – a new helicopter based on the W-3 SOKÓŁ, a medium-size, twin-engine, multipurpose helicopter designed and produced by PZL-Świdnik (part of Leonardo). SOKÓŁ remains the backbone of Poland’s air fleet – approximately 68 are still in service, while some have been modernised in recent years. The new SOKÓŁ NEW GENERATION is based on already tested and proven technologies and will include new, fully digital avionics from the AW169 programme, with glass cockpit, FMS (Flight Management System), TAWS (Terrain Awareness and Warning System), FADEC (Full Authority Digital Engine Control), SVS (Synthetic Vision System) and HUMS (Health and Usage Monitoring System). The aircraft will also receive a new 4-axis auto-pilot, new main rotor blades with increased payload capacity of 200kg, taking it to 6,600kg total. It would also feature anti-tank and air-to-air missiles, as well as 70mm rocket launchers and 12.7mm/20mm cannon pods.

As an aside, the Italian company is also offering the C-27J SPARTAN as a replacement for the ageing C-130E fleet (though earlier in the week Warsaw announced an intention to procure five ex-USAF C-130H), the Eurofighter TYPHOON and the M-346FA as a replacement for the Su-22s. In 2022, Leonardo will begin deliveries of four AW101s for the Polish Navy.

Boeing presented two helicopters at Kielce: the CH-47F CHINOOK and AH-64D APACHE. The Polish Army has been seeking new assault helicopters (in the KRUK programme) and will also need to procure new transport helicopters. In order to promote its offer, Boeing also brought a full-scale simulator for the AH-64E.

In the KRUK programme Poland wants to find a replacement for its aging Mi-24D/V helicopters, and PGZ, in cooperation with ITWL from Warsaw and Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, presented a concept for a deep modernisation of the type. It is anticipated that Poland will still upgrade its Mi-24s and keep them in service before a new assault helicopter is fully deployed. In late February 2019 the Armament Inspectorate announced that 15 entities are interested in this modernisation program.

A joint Polish-Israeli proposal includes a cabin upgrade for pilot and weapon system operator, integration with Rafael’s SPIKE ATGM family, and the PIORUN MANPADs and 70 mm unguided rockets from Mesko. Other potential weapon systems include 57mm/80mm unguided rocket launchers, 12.7mm (up to four) or 23mm (up to two) cannon pods, the PLATAN scatterable anti-tank mine dispensers or 70mm guided missiles. Upgraded Mi-24s would receive more digital equipment, including advanced self-defense systems, new communications, INS/GPS navigation, night-vision goggles as well as multi-functional screens and Rafael’s opto-electronic head with day/night observation sensor and laser target designator. Former Soviet YakB-12.7mm machine guns would be replaced by the WLKM 12.7mm from ZM Tarnów. Most of the required work would be carried out by WZL-1 (Wojskowe Zakłady Lotnicze No. 1) from Bydgoszcz.

Robert Czulda

A wide range of weapon options are on offer for a proposed modernisation of Poland’s Mi-24 HIND fleet. (Photo: Robert Czulda)

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