Poland Plans To Buy AW149 Fleet, Defense Minister Says

Credit: Leonardo Helicopters

Poland plans to purchase a fleet of Leonardo AW149 medium helicopters to meet a long-standing requirement for a multimission helicopter.

Defense Minister Mariusz Błaszczak revealed the decision during a June 10 speech to military leaders in Warsaw. He listed several key plans to purchase new armored fighting vehicles, tank destroyers and Earth observation satellites. 

The acquisition of the 8.5-metric-ton AW149s is related to Poland’s long-standing Perkoz requirement for rotorcraft that can perform the battlefield command and control and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) mission, as well as more traditional utility tasks such as troop lift, medical evacuation and close air support. The AW149s would likely replace types such as the PZL-Swidnik Mi-2 and the Głuszec and Anaconda variants of the W-3 Sokol platform currently used by the Polish armed forces. 

Leonardo would not comment on the statement by Błaszczak. But the company’s ownership of PZL-Swidnik will likely support the in-country assembly of the AW149s for Poland. 

An article on PZL-Swidnik’s website about the potential role of the AW149 in Polish service says it would “enable further development of helicopter production and competence in Świdnik. It would be an investment in Polish capabilities—technology and know-how, which would support thousands of jobs, but most of all, increase Poland’s defense capabilities.” 

Leonardo had previously been offering its 7-metric-ton AW139 twin-engine aircraft for the Perkoz requirement.  

Around 32 AW149s will be acquired, the Polish defense publication Defence 24 reported. 

Leonardo has previously entered the aircraft to meet Poland’s requirement for a platform that could start replacing its Soviet-era fleets of Mil Mi-8 and Mi-17s. Airbus’ H225M was selected, but the procurement was canceled in 2016. 

Since then, Poland has made a series of small orders for S-70 Black Hawks to support its special forces and for Leonardo AW101s for anti-submarine warfare duties, but so far nothing to replace its Russian-made Mi-8 (Hip) medium transport helicopters. 

The AW149 is also being proposed for the UK’s New Medium Helicopter requirement, which will replace the Royal Air Force’s Airbus Puma fleet and several other types in the UK inventory. 

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Tony Osborne

Based in London, Tony covers European defense programs. Prior to joining Aviation Week in November 2012, Tony was at Shephard Media Group where he was deputy editor for Rotorhub and Defence Helicopter magazines.