|Says:||Michał Jach, Chairman of the National Defence Committee of the Sejm
Gen. Piotr Patalong, former commander of Special Forces
Krzysztof Krystowski, Deputy Chairman of Leonardo Helicopters
New helicopters are necessary to ensure security on the Baltic Sea. The Navy needs a technological leap.
“The upgrade capabilities of military helicopters which have been in service since the 1960s are quite limited and we need a technological leap,” said Gen. Piotr Patalong, former commander of Special Forces. As part of a procedure carried out by the Ministry of National Defence, eight helicopters intended for anti-submarine warfare and sea search and rescue operations will be delivered to the Navy. Today, this function is performed by well-worn post-Soviet Mi-14 helicopters. New machines are necessary to ensure the military and civil security on the Baltic.
“The Army needs modern, multi-purpose helicopters which will provide it with operational capacity, helicopters which can be used in our field of military actions, which means resistant to signals intelligence, with radio-electronic reconnaissance capabilities, and capable of safe flight profiles. The upgrade capabilities of present equipment which has been in service since the 1960s are quite limited and we need a technological leap,” Gen. Piotr Patalong, former commander of Special Forces, highlighted in an interview for the Newseria Biznes information agency.
Under procedures instigated last year, the Ministry of National Defence wants to select the supplier of eight helicopters for special forces capable of conducting search and rescue operations in combat conditions and eight anti-submarine warfare and sea rescue machines for the Navy. The helicopter tenders are to improve the capabilities of Polish Special Forces and sea security, as well as the operational capacity of the Polish Army on the Baltic Sea.
“A strong Navy is one of the elements of the deterrence system. In addition, with a Navy which meets our ambitions, we can be important allies within the NATO structure, we can join various missions and expect in return that our regional security will be improved by the entire Organisation,” said Michał Jach, Chairman of the National Defence Committee of the Sejm at the Baltic Business Forum.
At present, there are three tenderers participating in the helicopter procedure. These are Airbus Helicopters (the manufacturer of Caracals), Sikorsky, which is a part of the American Lockheed Martin concern (the producers of S70i Black Hawk), and PZL-Świdnik owned by Leonardo Helicopters (the manufacturer of AW101). The machine, developed under Italian and British cooperation, is currently one of the largest helicopters manufactured in Europe.
The vast majority of the Polish Army, including the Navy, today are using helicopters produced by PZL-Świdnik. More than 160 machines manufactured in Świdnik are in active duty.
“These are the Anakonda helicopters, i.e. a navy version of the Sokół helicopter. The search and rescue machines save the lives of people on the Baltic Sea. The machines are located in two bases and are responsible for the security of seamen, crews of fishing boats and cutters, as well as of passengers of ships and ferries in the case of any problems. It is a very important function of the Polish Army performed in time of peace for the sake of our citizens,” said Krzysztof Krystowski, Deputy Chairman of Leonardo Helicopters.
According to the Deputy Chairman of Leonardo Helicopters, only the French Caracals constitute real competition for PZL-Świdnik; however, they are not available in an anti-submarine warfare version, and therefore do not meet one of the key requirements.
The forces deployed to ensure maritime security perform very important tasks in time of peace and crisis, which is why we need them. A strong Navy is one of the elements of the deterrence system. In addition, with a Navy which meets our ambitions, we can become important allies within the NATO structure, we can join with such machines various missions and expect the eastern flank of NATO to be strengthened and, in exchange, our regional security to be improved by the entire Organisation.
The Army needs modern helicopters which can perform a variety of functions and provide the Army with operational capacity. Helicopters which can be used in our field of military actions, which means resistant to signals intelligence, with radio-electronic reconnaissance capabilities, and applicable to various flight profiles.
If the equipment can be modernised, it should be. On the other hand, aircraft which have been flying since the 1960s have limited modernisation capabilities, and surely a technological leap is needed which will allow us to upgrade equipment in 30-40 years.
The difference between AW101 Merlin and Mi-14 is striking. These helicopters are ages apart. Merlin is a helicopter designed in the early 1990s, which has been continually developed. It is a more experienced helicopter used, for example, by the Royal Navy of the United Kingdom.
It is the only three-engine helicopter in Europe, because of which it has an incredible range and can stay airborne for a very long time, which is a very important element when it comes to anti-submarine warfare. This is because the helicopter has to hang in the air a great number of times, that is to remain static above the water to sonar check the area for submarines. Helicopters must perform many such stops and remain in their area of operation for the longest time possible.
Our only competitor in the tender is the Caracal helicopter, which does not have an anti-submarine warfare option at all. In the current situation, on the one hand there is a proven product, and on the other, there is a promise.
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