LE BOURGET, France — Lockheed Martin is "very optimistic" over prospects to win a helicopter tender in Poland, as its local unit could build the Black Hawk swiftly, according to John Rood, the company's senior vice president for international affairs.

"We can produce very quickly," he told Defense News at the Paris Air Show on June 20.

Sikorsky builds the Black Hawk S-70i helicopter at its Polish subsidiary, PZL Mielec, which is seen as helpful in the company's offer.

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The S-70i model includes an armed version and is aimed at the world market. There is significant interest for military helicopters in central Europe, he said.

Poland is looking to acquire utility helicopters for special forces and its Navy for antisubmarine warfare.

Airbus Helicopters is making offers to both Polish tenders, according to a company spokesman at the air show, who declined further comment.

That pitches the Caracal H225M against the Black Hawk in the competition for the special forces, and it is understood the Caracal is competing against the AW101 Merlin from Leonardo in the Navy tender.

Poland last year broke off exclusive negotiations with Airbus Helicopters for an order for 50 Caracal helicopters, sparking a severe row between Paris and Warsaw, and then launched the two present tenders.

The naval tender would likely interest Bell Helicopter, which has developed "marinization," a sealing to allow hosing down of rotorheads.

Elsewhere in Eastern Europe, Airbus has pitched its H145M in the Czech Republic's tender for a light utility armed scout helicopter. That has found stiff competition from Bell Helicopter, with local media reporting the U.S. company is the preferred candidate, due to a significant presence in Prague.

Prague is expected to sign a contract next year, with delivery in 2022.

Airbus has orders for the H145M from the German special forces, Thailand's naval force and Serbia, the spokesman said. The latter deal was announced last year and will enter the order book this year.

Romania at some time is expected to launch a tender for about 50 helicopters to replace an aging fleet of Puma helicopters.

Airbus Helicopters will likely offer its H215 and would transfer all production of this variant of the Super Puma for the global market to Romania. Such a move is driven by a search to be so-called best-cost, a more socially acceptable version of a so-called low-cost producer.

The key competitor is the Mi-17, a "killer" in business terms as Russia builds and maintains at a much lower cost, a European executive said.

Richard Harris, Bell Helicopter's vice president for international military sales, declined to comment on specific country markets, but said the company is "looking at all opportunities in Eastern Europe."

In Prague, Bell has a maintenance and aftermarket service center for Europe, and the company recently installed a paint facility. The US business announced June 18 a memorandum of understanding with local partner Lom Praha, for reassembly, service and customization of military helicopters.

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