A French Eurocopter Caracal EC 725 helicopter flies at the Kabul International Airport in 2012. (AFP)
PARIS — Airbus Helicopters expects Poland to order swiftly after a tender for 70 military helicopters closes at the end of September, marking the end of what is seen as one of the biggest rotorcraft deals, said executive vice president Dominique Maudet.
The Polish competition is not the only one, “but it is the biggest, clearly,” Maudet told journalists at the Eurosatory trade show. The land systems and security exhibition opened on June 16.
“The request for proposals is out, the answer is due by September ’14, with a decision which could be very quick,” he said.
Airbus Helicopters, which is offering the Caracal 725 with its local partner WZL 1, competes with Sikorsky Aircraft’s local plant, PZL Mielec, with its Black Hawk, and AgustaWestland’s PZL Swidnik, with the AW149.
Warsaw’s requirement is for a single helicopter versatile enough to perform for the Air Force, Army and Navy, an Airbus Helicopter spokesman said.
The request is for 36 tactical transport and 26 combat search-and-rescue helos for the three services, and eight units for the Navy, Maudet said.
The Caracal 725 meets the multi-mission requirement, he said.
Airbus Helicopter would bring in new industrial assets into Poland if the 725 were selected, including assembly line, maintenance and repair, and the Airbus supply chain, working with partner WZL 1, he said.
“This is absolutely key for the tender,” Maudet said.
The competitors already have an installed industrial base, he said.
Airbus will offer a sonar on board the 725 for the Navy, he said. Airbus Helicopters has supplied a naval version of the 725 to Brazil, armed with anti-ship missiles and specific countermeasures, he said. Tests are being held with the Exocet weapon on the Caracal for Brazil.
Work to adapt the Caracal for the French Army in the Mali campaign, as the dusty conditions have called for modifications, is ongoing, Maudet said.
There are “very, very demanding missions in Mali,” he said. The Caracal takes off and lands bearing a maximum load in the damaging sand.
“There is more engine support and repair needed than usual,” Maudet said.
Army engineers and engine builder Turbomeca are looking to “develop something to lower the need for engine maintenance, through either engine modification or air intake improvement,” Maudet said.
Airbus Helicopters is a unit of the Airbus group. ■