On 19th of September 2017 Casimir Pulaski Foundation organized the very first out of a series of seminars dedicated to the future of a new attack helicopter program of the Polish Armed Forces. The first seminar was centered around experiences of the United States Marine Corps in operating the H-1 helicopter Platform. AH-1Z Viper is one of competitors in the Polish “Kruk” (Raven) assault helicopter acquisition program. Future seminars will be dedicated to other entries to the Kruk program – Boeing (AH-64E), Airbus (Tiger HAD), and Turkish Aerospace Industries (ATAK).
Among the guests were: the director of the Marine Corps attack helicopter program, and an AH-1Z test pilot Col. David Walsh, Mjr. Jason Duke of the USMC, as well as retired US Army Brigadier General Joel Best, who is now the European Director for Global military Business Development at Bell Helicopter.
In the course of the seminar, speakers have discussed the capabilities of the aircraft, including the possibility of splitting the main operating unit – squadron, usually consisting of around 27 AH-1Z’s and UH-1Y’s, into smaller elements of anywhere between 4 – 8 airframes, and subsequently relocating those units away from the main base, and into field conditions. Also discussed was the robustness of the metal airframe allowing for increased survivability on the battlefield, aircrafts’ resistance to corrosion, as well as ease of serviceability and potential repairs, which could be achieved only with minimum infrastructure, workforce, and away from the main service base. Those parameters are a consequence of the Marine Corps doctrine, which dictates the need for uninterupted service away from the main base of operations, in rugged terrain, and in expeditionary bases located as close to enemy forces as possible. Speakers have also focused on the advantages of skids opposite of wheeled landing gear, that other competitors for the Kruk program are fielding in their aircraft. During his presentation, Col. Walsh presented further arguments for selecting the AH-1Z as a future assault helicopter of the Polish Armed Forces, including its ability to carry AIM-9X Sidewinder air-to-air missiles, as well as a wide array of anti-armor and anti-ship ordnance that the aircraft could potentially carry.
Following Col. Walsh presentation, Major Duke presented his experiences in flying the AH-1Z, discussed the history and the future of the H-1 platform upgrade program, and touched upon the 85 percent commonality among replaceable parts between the AH-1Z and UH-1Y, allowing for elimination of duplicative training and logistic support requirements, which may be of crucial importance in the context of potential acquisition of H-1 platform by other Central European NATO members. Participants of the conference, in particular representatives of the Polish Ministry of Defence, as well as Pulaski Fundation experts had an opportunity to ask the panelists a number of questions, which were then answered in some detail. Further discussion also touched upon the AH-1Z’s ability to cooperate with UAV’s, possibility of enhancing the AH-1Z’s weapons suite in order to better fit/fulfill specific Polish requirements, as well as AH-1Z’s lack of an active radar array.
During the lattermost part of the seminar, issues of potential offset procedure and industrial offer, capacity to conduct electronic warfare, the envisaged delivery timeline, as well as the possibility of moving the AH-1Z production line to Poland were further elaborated on by the guests.