scraps $3 billion Airbus heli deal, launches Lockheed
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[February 04, 2016]
WARSAW (Reuters) - Poland has
decided to scrap the $3 billion deal for 50 Airbus utility helicopters
and will buy only a few aircraft from the European company, the daily
Rzeczpospolita reported on Thursday citing defense sources.
The move, coming months before a NATO summit in Warsaw where Poland
is expected to seek more allied presence on its territory, could
strain Warsaw's ties with France and delay a military program
speeded up because of the Ukraine crisis.
Poland's previous centrist government, beaten by the euroskeptic Law
and Justice (PiS) party in elections last October, agreed a
provisional deal with Airbus for 50 EC-725 Caracal multi-purpose
That meant turning down offers from Sikorsky in the United States
and AgustaWestland in Italy.
The contract, negotiated by the economy ministry, has yet to be
signed and PiS has repeatedly said it would rather see the deal
awarded to a producer manufacturing locally. Both Sikorsky and
AgustaWestland have facilities in Poland.
As well as boosting Poland's defense industry, buying Sikorsky
helicopters could further strengthen Warsaw's ties with Washington,
already its closest ally, and could help secure U.S. backing for
Poland's demands of more NATO presence on the alliance's eastern
Airbus has proposed a so-called "offset program" that would source
work on its helicopters in Poland, but Foreign Minister Witold
Waszczykowski has described that as "leftovers" and said those
aircraft would mostly be built in France.
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The French defense ministry has now agreed Poland will only buy
"several" helicopters from Airbus, Rzeczpospolita reported, citing
an unnamed source in the Polish defense ministry.
At the same time, Poland has begun negotiations with Lockheed
Martin's Sikorsky, manufacturer of the locally-produced Black Hawk
helicopters that could be purchased by the Polish army as soon as
this year, the daily said.
Earlier this year, a Polish deputy defense minister said that the
deal with Airbus was "very likely" to be scrapped.
(Reporting by Wiktor Szary; Editing by Tom Heneghan)
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