Doing business on the Eastern front

One consequence of Russia’s recent aggression against Ukraine is how the conflict seems to have opened Eastern European eyes to the need to renew the region’s helicopter fleets.

In large part the countries in the region operate aging Soviet-designed rotorcraft, which, as well as becoming increasingly obsolete, are proving difficult to maintain given the Ukrainian crisis and EU embargo.

At a conference in Prague last week, I heard various helicopter commanders complain that spare parts for their Russian helicopters are becoming increasingly difficult to procure.

Mi-24_4 630

While they have no doubt been pushing for Western replacements for years, the situation in Ukraine seems to have helped to convince their political masters, with various procurement programmes now underway.

Poland is the big buyer, procuring new multirole and attack helicopters, but Croatia, Czech Republic, Slovakia and Slovenia also have upgrade or new acquisition programmes underway.

Against this backdrop, the conference attracted numerous senior helicopter commanders – from the immediate region as well as Scandinavian countries (which face similar geopolitical challenges) – in addition to the main Western helicopter manufacturer.

In the words of one British commander, the ‘OEMs are circling like sharks’ now that requirements are starting to translate into firm procurements.

We look at what this means for the replacement of the various Mi-24/35 fleets across the region in the next issue of Defence Helicopter.

Despite years of political apathy and continuing budgetary challenges, the momentum to replace former Soviet rotorcraft seems to be picking up since Moscow has shown itself to be a less than stable influence in the region.

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