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Poland still reviewing its options to buy 14 army helicopters

by Reuters
Wednesday, 18 January 2017 12:02 GMT

(Adds detail, background)

WARSAW, Jan 18 (Reuters) - Poland is considering buying 14 army helicopters from either Airbus, Lockheed Martin's Sikorsky subsidiary or Leonardo-Finmeccanica this year, the defence minister said on Thursday.

NATO member Poland has sped up efforts to overhaul its military following Russia's annexation of Ukraine's Crimea peninsula and Moscow's renewed military and political assertiveness in the region.

"We are in the process of choosing an offer," Antoni Macierewicz told a news conference, without saying when a decision will be made. The defence ministry has said the contract could be worth 1 billion zlotys ($244 million).

The ministry is also considering buying more F-16 fighter jets and three new submarines, he said.

The year-old government led by the conservative Law and Justice (PiS) party, which built its popularity partly on promising greater security, plans to spend 61 billion zlotys on modernisation of the army by 2022.

Poland scrapped a preliminary deal with Airbus in October to buy 50 Caracal multi-role helicopters for 13.5 billion zlotys after prolonged negotiations.

Both Lockheed Martin's Sikorsky subsidiary and Leonardo's AugustaWestland produce helicopters at plants in Poland, in the cities of Mielec and Swidnik respectively.

The defence ministry may buy more F-16s from the United States depending on the terms proposed, Macierewicz said. The ministry has said Poland was considering buying 50 to 100 F-16 aircraft. Macierewicz also said he hoped Poland would sign a contract for three submarines at the end of 2017 or in early 2018. ($1 = 4.0930 zlotys) (Reporting by Marcin Goettig, Lidia Kelly, Anna Koper and Anna Wlodarczak-Semczuk; Writing by Lidia Kelly; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

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