Defence24.pl found out that the Armament Inspectorate of the Polish Ministry of Defence decided to suspend the technical dialogue concerning the Perkoz helicopter procurement programme. The information was provided to us via off-the-record channels and was received by the entities involved in the procedure on 16th March, from the Head of the Aviation Technology Division of the Armament Inspectorate. Until the publication of the article, the Armament Inspectorate did not respond to our inquiries on the matter.
The above means that delays may be expected, when it comes to the introduction of a new helicopter platform that was to replace the o obsolete Mi-2 helicopters, and, to some extent, the Mi-8, supporting the existing W-3 Sokół fleet. Some of the legacy aircraft will need to continue their service as well.
We do not know the official reasons behind the suspension. One could assume that the causes stem from the Polish Ministry of Defence's budgetary constraints, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the necessity to allocate funds to other, priority undertakings. The Perkoz programme was still in its infancy, as the technical dialogue began in May.
The procedure originally involved as many as 12 entities - both helicopter manufacturers, as well as potential suppliers of broadly understood support systems, weapons, and training services:
- Works 11
- Hindustan Aeronautics via Helicopter Division Hindustan Aeronautics,
- Cobham Aviation Services UK,
- Airbus Helicopters,
- Bell Textron,
- PGZ Group,
- Air Force Institute of Technology,
- WSK PZL-Świdnik,
- Elbit Systems,
- Łukasiewicz Research Network – Institute of Aviation
- Boeing Company,
- PZL-Mielec (belonging to Sikorsky-Lockheed Martin)
This is yet another postponement of this project. Between 2018 and 2019 a decision was made not to include it in the Polish military’s Technical Modernization Plan covering the timeline until 2026. This decision was justified by the priority shift to the Kruk attack helicopter program. The latter, as confirmed by the spokesman for the Armament Inspectorate, Major Krzysztof Płatek, is still in the analytical-conceptual phase. The Basic National Security Interest assessment that has been going on since 2016, having an impact on the aforementioned programme, still has not been accomplished. This makes it quite likely that the suspension of Perkoz project is related to the funding environment.
The Perkoz programme was aimed at the acquisition of 32 helicopters in 3 variants: combat support/training, command, and electronic warfare/reconnaissance. It was assumed that Perkoz would come in the form of a helicopter capable of carrying at least 1 tonne or payload or 5, fully equipped soldiers.
These were the minimum assumptions. The programme was taking into account both light and medium helicopter platforms, in light of the necessity to replace the Mi-8 helicopters. Command and reconnaissance and electronic warfare variants mentioned by the procurement show that W-3 Sokół helicopters were also among the ones to be replaced (the above refers to the replacement of the specialist versions - Gipsówka and Procjon).
Perkoz helicopters were to play a key role in the Polish Army Aviation, replacing the Mi-2 platform and delivering precision-guided munitions capability against the ground targets. The Polish rotary-wing aircraft have virtually no capabilities in that department whatsoever. Apart from the above, the Perkoz helicopters were also to partially replace the legacy W-3 Sokół and Mi-8 aircraft in cargo role.
The suspension of the Perkoz programme means that the existing helicopters will need to serve longer. Recently, an announcement was made about the procurement of overhaul services of the PZL-10W engines used in the W-3 helicopters. These are to be rendered by PZL-Rzeszów. This paves the way towards a further extension of the lifecycles of those helicopters, maybe an upgrade can also be expected so that CAS variant is available. This has been an option that is being considered for some time now.