At MSPO 2019 in Kielce last week, Leonardo announced a proposal to develop a new generation of the venerable W-3 SOKOL helicopter for the Polish armed forces, the effort being spearheaded by Leonardo’s own PZL-Swidnik in close cooperation with the state-owned PGZ Group and Polish defence industry. Leonardo has had a significant presence in Poland since 2010, considering it a home market and having become one of the nation’s largest exporters. The company employs almost 3,000 people and produces W-3A SOKOL and W-3PL GLUSZEC helicopters and fuselages in Swidnik at the rate of about 150 fuselages a year.

Although Leonardo naturally focuses mostly on helicopters in Poland, it serves all three branches of the Polish armed forces. It already delivered the first twelve M-346 BIELIK advanced jet trainers to the Polish Air Force and the fleet is set to increase to 16 aircraft. In April 2019, the company also signed a contract with the Polish Navy for the delivery of four AW101 helicopters and is currently exploring possibilities for a second batch of four more aircraft. Leonardo is also interested in integrating its HITFACT turret system with the ROSOMAK AFV platform. The importance of local industrial cooperation opportunities for the AW249 New Combat Helicopter development programme was also highlighted during MSPO. The new platform, which will be a replacement for the A129 MANGUSTA, is expected to reach operational capability in 2025 and the company already signed a letter of intent (LOI) with PGZ Group in 2018. Leonardo also harbours additional ambitions in the wider Central and Eastern Europe region and recently established a presence in Slovakia and Romania.

Tomás Chlebecek

Leonardo’s M346 has already begun deliveries to Poland for advanced jet training role. (Photo: Tomás Chlebecek)

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