First Polish Apache Offset OK’d Ahead Of 96-Aircraft Order

Credit: Tony Osborne/Aviation Week

Poland’s defense ministry has contracted what it describes as a first offset agreement associated with the acquisition of its planned Boeing Apache attack helicopter fleet.

Warsaw is seeking work for Polish industry to support and maintain the fleet as it prepares to purchase 96 of the rotorcraft. This will make the Eastern European country the largest export customer for the Apache yet—a reflection of the scale of the recapitalization of the Polish military currently underway in the face of a renewed threat from Russia.

The first of the contracts was sealed during a visit by Defense Minister Mariusz Błaszczak to Boeing’s Apache production line in Mesa, Arizona, on Sept. 25. It will see Lodz-based Military Aviation Works No.1 (WZL-1) service and maintain the Longbow radars that will equip the helicopters—work valued at 300 million Polish zloty ($69 million) over five years. Officials say the arrangement will enable the Polish defense industry to establish capabilities in “diagnosing and verifying possible malfunctions and partial servicing” of the radars.

“This is the first of a series of offset agreement ...  we start with offset agreements because this is what Polish law stipulates,” Błaszczak explained. 
The U.S. State Department has already approved the sale of the helicopters and a sizable weapons package worth around $12 billion. The signing of the letter of offer and acceptance (LOA) for the foreign military sale is expected later this year, Błaszczak appeared to suggest.

“We are in the process of negotiating detailed conditions for acquiring 96 Apache attack helicopters. We want the delivery dates to be as quick as possible,” he said.

Ahead of delivery, Poland will receive aircraft from U.S. Army stocks under lease as a bridging arrangement to help train Polish personnel on the type before the aircraft arrive.

Błaszczak reiterated that the helicopters would work well with Poland’s purchase of Abrams main battle tanks and help close what he called the “Brzeska Gate”—a reference to a Polish region bordering Belarus that would be the likely route of a Russian land invasion force.

“This is a direction that has been used many times in history by Russian forces both in the period of Tsarist Russia and in Red Russia. Now, by anticipating attacks, we want to make the Polish Army so strong that Russia will not dare to invade our territory,” he said.

Officials say the scheduling of deliveries will be laid out in the LOA, although Boeing’s backlog for the rotorcraft will likely mean Warsaw will wait two to three years for its first aircraft from the Mesa production line.

The Boeing aircraft was selected last September over Bell’s AH-1Z Viper to meet requirements of Poland’s Kruk program, closing a nearly decade-long search to find a replacement for Warsaw’s Russian-built Mil Mi-24/35 “Hind” gunships.

Critics have suggested that Poland may not purchase all 96 helicopters, but this is likely to depend on the outcome of Poland’s upcoming general election, planned for Oct. 15.

“Our goal is to prevent Russia from entering,” Błaszczak added. “We all know perfectly well about the attempts to rebuild the Russian Empire, but the best response to these attempts is to create a strong Polish Army ... this process is currently taking place.”

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.