WARSAW — Eurocopter, the world’s leading maker of civil helicopters, inked an agreement Thursday aimed at setting up production in Poland, putting the EADS subsidiary in the running for a big-ticket Polish chopper deal.
Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk announced in September that Warsaw was seeking 70 helicopters for its army and that companies seeking the contract — believed to be the largest of its kind in Europe — must guarantee they will build locally.
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.
Thursday’s agreement between Eurocopter, a subsidiary of the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company (EADS), and the WZL 1 factory in the central city of Lodz, includes Turbomeca, a French maker of helicopter engines.
“We’re here to win. It’s the largest helicopter tender in Europe for the near future,” Eurocopter’s Olivier Lambert told AFP.
Should his company win, it has vowed to assemble EC 725 choppers in Lodz, along with Turbomeca engines.
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 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.