Poland to Boost Own Defense Industry as Airbus Chopper Deal Axed

Poland is turning to local defense companies after canceling a 13.5 billion-zloty ($3.5 billion) order for military helicopters from Airbus Group SE.

Top Polish government officials visited helicopter plants in the country’s southeast, owned by Italy’s Leonardo-Finmeccanica SpA and U.S.-based  Lockheed Martin Corp.’s Sikorsky Aircraft Corp., after the collapse of the Airbus deal last week soured relations with NATO ally France.

“We want the equipment for the Polish army to be produced in Poland,” Prime Minister Beata Szydlo said in Swidnik. “Polish industry should be the engine of economic growth and should also create chances for local companies to compete with the best global players.”

The previous Polish government signed a preliminary agreement to order 50 military aircraft from Airbus last year as part of the country’s plans to boost defense spending amid the conflict in neighboring Ukraine. The ruling Law & Justice party, then in the opposition, criticized the deal, saying it didn’t take into account local producers, including Sikorsky Aircraft and Finmeccanica’s AgustaWestland.

President Francois Hollande postponed a planned visit to Poland on Oct. 13 while Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian canceled his on Oct. 10 following Poland’s decision to end talks with Airbus. France will review all its military pacts with Poland and decide on which ones should be maintained, according to French Defense Ministry advisers. Airbus may seek a breach-of-contract compensation from Poland, the advisers said.

Supplies of the first Sikorsky Black Hawk choppers from the Mielec plant for Polish special forces will begin this year, Defense Minister Antoni Macierewicz said on Monday, without providing more details.

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