In a time of increasing uncertainty from its Russian neighbor, the Polish government on Monday announced it will invest in Polish-made S-70i Black Hawk helicopters as part of a plan to upgrade its armed forces.
The negotiation could fill the country’s requirement of between 10 and 12 special forces helicopters it previously solicited, but no hard numbers were discussed, according to the website Flightglobal.
The announcement comes days after the Poles abandoned a pending agreement with Airbus for 50 French-made H225M Caracal helicopters — a deal worth roughly $3.5 billion, according to The Associated Press.
Prime Minister Beata Szydlo and Defense Minister Antoni Macierewicz discussed the move in the country’s aviation factory in Mielec, now owned by Sikorsky, part of Lockheed Martin Corp. The hope is for Polish special forces to begin training on the Black Hawks later this year.
“I am convinced that thanks to this, Polish technologies will develop and Polish industry will develop,” Macierewicz said. “We’ll be able to say that we are a modern country, and that our army has equipment that ensures that no opponent with threaten us.”
“It’s important that the military have Polish equipment made by Polish workers,” Szydlo added.
Poland in 2015 increased its military spending by more than 16 percent from the previous year, rising to just over 2 percent of the country’s GDP for the first time in nine years.
The unrest to the East — from Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea to the downing of civilian airliner MH17 over Hrabove, Ukraine, both in 2014 — has kept Poland on high alert, enough to have the country investing in new gear for the military, as well as boosting its missile defense modernization efforts.
Over the weekend, Russia, citing “routine drills,” moved Iskander-M missiles into Kaliningrad, nestled centrally between Poland and Lithuania. The short-range ballistic missiles are meant to destroy military units on the move or stationary targets, such as command and communication centers.