Procurement: Poland Takes On China


March 4, 2008: China is buying 150 helicopters from the Polish PZL Swidnik firm. Three types of helicopters are being delivered. Most will be the W-3, which is the first helicopter designed and manufactured in Poland. The military version, the W-3PL, has a radar, HUD (head up display), anti-missile system (detectors and flare dispensers) and is armed with a 12.7mm machine-gun turret under the nose, There are winglets for carrying rockets and missiles. The six ton W3 was originally developed in Poland in the 1970s and was sold to other East European nations, as a competitor to the Russian Mi-8. When the Cold War ended, the W-3 was upgraded and certified to operate in Western countries. The W3PL is considered a "battle support" helicopter, not a gunship. It has an armored floor, but is otherwise not as robust as choppers specifically built as gunships. The transport version of the W-3 only costs $4 million, making it an attractive buy for countries on tight budgets, and wanting better quality than found in similar Russian choppers.

China is also getting some of the smaller PZL Kania (3.5 ton) and PZL SW-4 (1.6 ton). PZL will assemble some of these helicopters in China, and risks having China steal the designs and produce Chinese versions. But these three helicopters are basic designs. What makes them cheap and reliable are the well trained and experienced Polish workers and technicians. Should be interesting to see how this deal works out, because the Russians have just about had it with the Chinese attitude towards patents and intellectual property.


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