Armed Forces

New Helicopter Doctrine of the Polish Ministry of Defence. No Heavy Transport Rotor-craft Will Be Acquired

Photo: J. Sabak.
Photo: J. Sabak.

Currently, the Polish Ministry of Defence does not see any need of acquiring heavy transport helicopters, however the General Staff is currently working on the new operational requirements. According to the current assumptions, there is no need to replace or modernize the  Mi-17 helicopters, until the moment when they are decommissioned – and this would not happen until 2026 – 2027. Then acquisition of another 20 multi-role helicopters is to take place, according to Czesław Mroczek, the Deputy Minister of Defence. The parameters of the new rotor-craft would be compliant with the needs of the user – the specific military unit – within the scope of the number of carried soldiers and cargo.

Mroczek's statement suggests that the new helicopters would have combat capabilities close to those possessed by the Mi-17, as the planned procurement is quantitatively small – 20 helicopters are to be acquired, which constitutes a 1:1 replacement. The plans are, to a large extent, dependent on other acquisition of the helicopters and on the operational doctrine which is going to govern the use of the new helicopters.

At the moment we are in the middle of the process of redefining the operational requirements with the General Staff – in essence, after this edition is completed – at the end of 2015 – some new requirements and updates would be implemented in the development plan for the Armed Forces. At the moment there is no need to acquire the heavy transport helicopter.

Col. Adam Duda, working at the Armament Inspectorate

The new operational requirements would constitute numerous changes in the operational use of the helicopters, carried out by the Polish Army. Two criteria are to be defined. The first is evidenced in the Plan of introducing 50 new Caracal helicopters into service – the relevant agreement is planned to be signed in September this year, and the introduction schedule is also to be made clear by then.

At the same time – basing it on the cost estimates, resulting from the technical dialogue and the available funds which would be present due to the quantitative reduction of the multi-role helicopter deal – options regarding procurement of the attack helicopters would also be clarified. The final number is going to constitute a compromise between the possibilities and the actual needs.

Due to the fact that the number of the cargo helicopters is cut down to 16 examples – a single squadron – the Ministry of Defence plans to extend the operational lifetime of the Mi-17 helicopters – they were to be decommissioned by 2022. Now they are going to remain operational until 2026-2027, with the required overhauls, but without any significant upgrades. Should the costs of other defence deals be higher, as in case of the multi-role helicopters – it may turn out that a modest modernization programme would be a must, in order to expand the lifetime of the helicopters, which would in turn make it possible to extend the period of operational use.

When it comes to procurement of another lot of the multi-role helicopters after 2022, there is no guarantee that Poland would decide to acquire the H225M Caracals once again. Due to the prospective period, being longer than one decade, creating a new tender or other purchase procedure would be sensible. Requirements for the new helicopters may also be significantly changed, within the scope of their capabilities and the operational tasks.

10 years (Addendum by the editor: period until 2025-2027 – when another lot of 20 helicopters is to be acquired) constitutes 2 planning cycles, when it comes to the operational requirements. The dynamic nature of the contemporary battlefield environment may force us to change our needs

As it was stressed by Col. Adam Duda, during a joint meeting involving Czesław Mroczek

Ultimately it becomes more and more probable that instead of a joint platform of 70 helicopters, we would be in possession of 34 specialized  and 16 cargo  H225M Caracal helicopters, along with 20 rotor-craft of a different variety. Economic opportunities and the political situation yet again have verified the plans made by the Ministry of Defence. We also do not know how the capability gap left by the withdrawn Mi-17 is going to be covered – the Mi-17 has a big cargo bay, along with a rear-ramp – Caracal does not offer such possibilities.