KIELCE, Poland — With numerous Eastern European nations gearing towards phasing out Soviet-designed helos, Bell Helicopter says it is offering aircraft that could replace their outdated fleets.
The aircraft has modern capacities and is as easy to be serviced as the helos made by the Mil Moscow Helicopter Plant, whose craft dominates the fleets of allies throughout the region.
In Poland, Bell’s AH-1Z Viper is competing in the Kruk program, under which the Ministry of Defense aims to acquire an estimated 32 combat helos to replace the Air Force’s outdated Mil Mi-24 copters.
Bell’s representatives say the AH-1Z Viper is a combat-proven aircraft that does not require costly maintenance and support services, similar to the Mi-24 helos operated by Poland as well as the Czech Republic and Bulgaria. The former country is planning to spend up to 12 billion krona (U.S. $1.5 billion) to buy about 12 new copters. The aircraft under consideration include Airbus Helicopters’ H145M, Sikorsky’s UH-60 Black Hawk, Bell’s UH-1Y and Leonardo’s AW139.
Joel Best, senior manager for European military programs at Bell Helicopter, told Defense News at the MSPO defense industry show in Kielce the manufacturer does not aim to become a foreign company that operates Poland-based facilities. Rather, it is interested in partnering with the Polish defense industry for a potential contract.
This cooperation could be structured similar to Bell’s partnership with Romania’s defense group Romarm, according to Best.
“The Romanian industry has vast experience in helicopter production; it’s a major asset,” Best said.
Last August, Romania’s Defense Ministry signed a letter of intent with Bell to acquire new combat copters for the country’s Air Force. This will be followed by discussions “on the establishment of a joint venture and a transfer of technology and know-how to allow the production of helicopters in Romania,” the country’s government said in a statement.