Polish Armaments Group has signed a letter of intent with the Bell Helicopter company, concerning the cooperation within the framework related to the “Kruk” attack helicopter programme, pursued by the Polish Armed Forces. The US-based company offers the AH-1Z Viper helicopters within the aforesaid tender. This rotary-wing aircraft is also being operated by the US Marines.
The event took place at the Bell HQ in Fort Worth, Texas. It constituted an element of the official visit paid by PGZ to the United States of America. The Letter of Intent “pertaining to collaboration and identification of the Polish industrial resources available within the scope of support for the Kruk programme”, as the official statement reads, has been signed by: Roman Ignasiak, Deputy Director of the Aviation Platforms Bureau of the Polish Armaments Group, and Robert T. Hastings, Bell Helicopter’s Vice-President of Operations. The event of signing the said document constitutes an extension of the steps taken in June 2016, when both parties have signed a memorandum of understanding in Poland, opening the way towards mutual cooperation.
The concluded letter of intent makes it possible to implement joint industrial programmes and transfer the technologies and know-how between the PGZ and Bell Helicopter companies, in a manner which would be more detailed. According to the information released by the American company, the memorandum paves the way towards collaboration, within the scope of offering the operational support and training package related to the AH-1Z Viper offer. The collaboration would be related mainly to the PGZ-owned WZL No. 1 facility from Łódź.
Bell also selected 40 Polish companies which could, potentially, be involved in implementation of the said programme. This includes tailoring the AH-1Z helicopter to the specific requirements of the Polish user. The steps within that scope are to be taken in case when the Bell Helicopter AH-1Z is selected within the Kruk attack helicopter programme.
AH-1Z Viper helicopters are offered for the Polish Army within the framework of the Kruk programme. The procurement initiative in question is to make it possible to select a successor of the obsolete Soviet-made Mi-24D/W helicopters. Acquisition of up to 32 new rotary-wing aircraft is being planned, in two-phases procurement programme. It is assumed that the agreement would be signed in 2017, and the deliveries would begin in two years. The first 16 helicopters would be delivered until 2022. After this date, the Army would be to receive another 16 rotorcraft.
PGZ, within the framework of getting ready for procurement of the attack helicopters, has also signed a memorandum of understanding with the Boeing company. The designs competing within the Kruk tender include Bell AH-1Z Viper, Boieng AH-64E Apache Guardian, Airbus Helicopters Tiger and TAI T129 ATAK.
AH-1Z helicopters have been developed for the US Marines, they have a track-proven record of combat use, since they have been introduced into the inventory of the USMC since 2011. The helicopter in question has been designed with the USMC battle doctrine in mind, meaning that the new variant of Cobra is tailored to be operated away from its permanent bases, with limited logistical support and infrastructure. Zulu Cobra has 85% of its parts common with the UH-1Y Venom aircraft, also utilized by the USMC. Venom has been offered by Bell within the “urgent operational requirement” procurement procedure, concerning the rotary-wing aircraft for the Polish Special Forces.