Poland on Thursday announced a tender to buy 26 multifunctional helicopters for its army worth an estimated 1.5-3.0 billion zlotys (360-720 million euros, $480-960 million).
"The tender will be opened today," Defence Minister Tomasz Siemoniak told the TOKFM radio station.
He added that this was "the first step" in the Polish army's drive to replace 250 Soviet-era army helicopters in the years to come, with more tenders to be announced later.
Local media said the army wanted the new helicopters to be produced in Poland.
The former communist country, which joined NATO in 1999 and the European Union in 2004, is home to two helicopter plants, run by the British-Italian producer AgustaWestland and by the US aircraft maker Sikorsky Aircraft.
Polish media said the two were the odds-on favourites in the tender.
AgustaWestland in 2010 bought Polish helicopter producer PZL Swidnik, which makes the Sokol helicopters used in rescue operations, by firefighters and for transport, and above all by the army.
It sells its helicopters in Poland, the Czech Republic and South Korea.
AgustaWestland expects to launch the production of AW 109, AW 119 and AW 139 helicopters in Swidnik in the south of the country, alongside the production of parts for the AW 101 model.
Sikorsky has started to produce a new version of Black Hawk S70i for export in its Polish plant PZL Mielec, also in southern Poland.
by Nina Larson Â© 2012 AFP
Date: Mar 29, 2012