Polish court probes Caracal helicopters contract abandonment

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In 2015, Warsaw selected Airbus Helicopters to supply Poland’s Armed Forces with 50 H225M Caracal helicopters. Valued at nearly €3 billion, this deal was almost finalized, save for some minor details. However, after the Law and Justice party [PiS] won the 2015 elections, their preference shifted more towards Airbus Helicopters‘ competitors, Lockheed-Martin and Leonardo, who were already established in Poland. 

Photo by Ricardo Hebmuller

By 2016, Airbus planned to establish a dedicated production line and research center for the Caracal in Poland. However, the Polish government terminated these discussions. According to Poland’s Development Ministry, it was impossible to finalize an agreement due to significant differences in negotiating positions. The government suspended its offset agreement with Airbus due to a lack of an offset proposal that satisfied Poland’s economic and security interests. 

A controversy emerged that affected a small number of people. In 2017, someone linked to the Polish Ministry of Defense claimed during a press interview that the Caracal contract was completed, sparking further controversy. Investigations revealed that this individual had unauthorized access to sensitive technical documents for Airbus helicopters. 

Photo credit: French Air Forces

The French government argued that this decision by the PiS-led government was motivated more by politics than practical and industrial considerations. Later, Airbus received compensation of 80 million zlotys [€18.5 million] for this affair, which continues to be a contentious issue. 

Now, with a change in government and allegations of a “witch hunt” led by Donald Tusk [Civil Platform] to “restore the rule of law”, this issue has resurfaced. Le Monde, a daily newspaper, questioned this pursuit, wondering, “How can we restore the rule of law without breaking the law?” 

Last week, Gazeta Wyborcza reported that Poland’s Defense Committee of the Parliament had urged the Supreme Audit Court to investigate the fallout from the abandoned negotiations with Airbus. According to MP Marcin Bosacki, this issue was overlooked under PiS’s leadership. He noted in Gazeta Wyborcza that Poland lost compensation worth 10 billion zlotys and had to pay millions of zlotys in penalties because of this. Bosacki expressed regret that instead of acquiring 50 new helicopters, the Polish army managed to secure only 10.

About H225M Caracal helicopter

The H225M Caracal, previously known as the EC725, is a long-range tactical transport military helicopter developed by Eurocopter, now Airbus Helicopters. It’s a twin-engine aircraft that can carry up to 29 seated troops along with two crew members, depending on customer configuration requirements. The helicopter is marketed for troop transport, casualty evacuation, and combat search and rescue duties, and is similar to the civilian EC225. 

The H225M Caracal boasts a five-blade main rotor with a diameter of 16.2 meters and a four-blade tail rotor. It showcases an overall length of 19.5 meters and a height of 4.6 meters. The maximum takeoff weight is 11,000 kilograms. Its fuel capacity stands impressive at 2,247 liters, which can be further increased with an optional in-flight refueling probe. 

Photo credit: AA

The Caracal derives its power from two Turbomeca Makila 2A1 turboshaft engines, each delivering 1,776 shaft horsepower. These engines empower the helicopter to reach a maximum speed of 324 kilometers per hour, with a cruising speed of 285 kilometers per hour. The service ceiling is approximately 6,095 meters. 

The operational range of the H225M Caracal is commendable, with a ferry range of 1,325 kilometers and an endurance of approximately 5 hours and 30 minutes. The helicopter also has a combat radius of 857 kilometers, which can be further extended with air-to-air refueling. 

The H225M Caracal is outfitted with a night vision goggle-compatible glass cockpit. It features a four-axis autopilot designed to reduce crew workload and improve mission performance. The avionics suite includes a tactical mission system replete with a moving map, automatic transition to hover, and an automatic flight control system

In the realm of armament, the H225M Caracal can be equipped with two side-mounted 7.62mm machine guns with a firing rate of 750 rounds per minute. Additionally, it can also be equipped with anti-ship missiles, air-to-air missiles, and torpedoes, depending upon the mission requirements. 

Finally, the H225M Caracal’s airframe is engineered to withstand damage and features crash-worthy seats along with a crash-worthy fuel system. The helicopter also includes self-sealing fuel tanks and armor protection for the crew and vital systems, thereby augmenting its survivability in combat situations.

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