WARSAW Oct 18 Poland's defence ministry has
invited Airbus, Lockheed Martin's Sikorsky unit
and Leonardo-Finmeccanica for talks about buying army
helicopters worth about 1 billion zlotys ($254 million), the
ministry said on Tuesday.
The invitations were issued after Poland scrapped earlier
this month a preliminary deal with Airbus to buy 50 Caracal
multi-role helicopters for 13.5 billion zlotys ($3.4 billion)
after prolonged negotiations.
Sikorsky and Leonardo's AugustaWestland had initially also
taken part in that tender. Both produce helicopters at Polish
plants in the cities of Mielec and Swidnik respectively.
"The talks concern buying helicopters in the framework of an
urgent operational need declared by the armed forces of the
Republic of Poland," acting defence ministry spokeswoman Beata
Defence Minister Antoni Macierewicz told wSieci weekly
earlier this week that the framework of a so-called urgent
operational need allowed the ministry to hold talks with a
chosen contractor without the need to announce a new tender.
It was not clear how the talks announced on Tuesday would
impact an earlier announcement from the ministry that it would
buy at least two Black Hawk helicopters from Sikorsky this year
and a further eight next year.
Macierewicz was also quoted as saying earlier this week that
the ministry needed to urgently spend the money earmarked for
helicopters in its budget at a time of tensions with Russia, as
otherwise access to the funds could be lost.
The decision to scrap the earlier preliminary deal with
Airbus angered France and led to a cancellation of the French
president's visit to Poland earlier in October.
Polish officials said they did not receive acceptable
proposals from Airbus over local investments, while Airbus's
chief executive accused Poland of misleading the company during
($1 = 3.9264 zlotys)
(Reporting by Marcin Goettig and Pawel Florkiewicz; Writing by
Marcin Goettig; Editing by Mark Potter)