WARSAW — Eurocopter, the world’s leading maker of civil helicopters, will sign an agreement next month aimed at setting up production in Poland, putting it in the running for a Polish chopper deal, a factory president said Monday.
Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk announced in September that Warsaw was seeking 70 helicopters for its army and that companies vying for the contract must guarantee they will build locally.
The subsidiary of the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company (EADS) and the WZL 1 factory in the central city of Lodz will ink the agreement on April 4, WZL 1 President Jan Pietowski told AFP. He said the agreement would center on their “cooperation if Eurocopter is chosen by Poland to deliver the 70 helicopters,” without elaborating.
The British-Italian group AgustaWestland and U.S. manufacturer Sikorsky Aircraft have expressed interest in the tender, estimated to be worth around 2.5 billion euros ($3.2 billion). Both firms already have helicopter plants in Poland.
Eurocopter’s Barbara Texier, who is working on the WZL 1 project, confirmed the agreement to the leading Gazeta Wyborcza daily. The helicopter tender is seen as a significant step in the Polish army’s drive to replace 250 Soviet-era helicopters in the years to come.
A former Soviet satellite state of 38.2 million, Poland joined NATO in 1999, a decade after shedding communism. It entered the European Union in 2004.
Warsaw plans 33.6 billion euros in military spending over the coming decade to upgrade its Soviet-era military infrastructure. Plans call for a national missile shield as part of NATO’s European system as well as new helicopters, armored personnel carriers, submarines and drones.