Poland’s poor Sokol choppers for the Philippines?

September 5, 2010 at 11:30 am 17 comments


A military chaplain sprinkles Holy Water on brand new Polish Sokol multi-role helicopters during turnover ceremony to the Philippine Air Force at Clark Air Base, Pampanga province (AP).

A military chaplain sprinkles Holy Water on brand new Polish Sokol multi-role helicopters during turnover ceremony to the Philippine Air Force at Clark Air Base, Pampanga province, 100 kilometers (63 miles) north of Manila, Philippines, Friday March 9. (AP).

So sir, you’re now the chairman of the Committee on Defense?” I posed to Rep. Leopoldo Bataoil, a former two-star general, who I met lately at the pristine and windy beach of Lingayen when he graced the 2010 Petron’s Ladies Beach Volleyball.
He answered in the affirmative.
I told him that at the Famborough International Air show in The United Kingdom last July, it was announced there that our battle-scarred neighbor Republic of Vietnam has ordered its second batch of 20 SU-30MK2 known as Sukhoi warplanes(Russian version of U.S made F-15E Fighter-Bomber).
“We have long have been left behind by our Asian neighbors in the arms race. Any plan for our government to buy some respectable war planes? Mainland China has already hundreds of these Sukhois as it threatens our oil-and fish-rich Spratlys with her state-of-the-art jets and war ships?” I posed.
“If we have money, we will even buy the U.S (aircraft-carrier) Enterprises,” he told me in jest.
I asked his thoughts why we purchased that unknown eight Poland-made brand-new PZL W-3 Sokol military choppers worth P2.8 billion, when the Israelis were selling to us 30 pieces of those lethal second-hand Bell’s Cobra night-attack helicopters (those thin looking two-pilots operated flying ambassador of death strapped with all the rockets, canons, machine guns one can ever imagine) in a price one can only find in the Ukay-ukay (second hand clothes) business being sold at those SM (Segunda Mano) stores all over the country.
He told me in details that before our government shell-out billions of pesos for these military procurement, it has to pass first a barrage of study, testing, and discussion how these hard wares apply in our terrain.
Before our government bought those choppers from Poland, I asked couple of months ago former Defense Secretary Jun Ebdane at his palatial home in Zambales about the Israelis’ offers.
He told me the downside: The Americans would not allow all stock, lock and barrel of the Cobra for us Flips to enjoy.
“The U.S government would not allow giving us the Cobra’s missile system. Besides, it’s very expensive, we could buy lots of helicopters for one brand new Cobra,” he stressed.
I should have protested that what the Jews sell us is their second-hand stuff – just like the ukay-ukay at the kanto. But somebody called the former four-star general thus my supposed interjection turn to pffft.
***
Oh by the way, I was curious about the quality of these choppers from Poland. I heard the Iraqi Air force has returned all of them to its manufacturer. And in the South East Asian Region, its only poor Myanmar (Burma), and the former Communist states in the Eastern Europe to have the gall to patronize them. Why old capitalist countries all over the globe do not have these PZL W-3 Sokols on their inventory?
Just askin’ since I don’t want to hear another flying coffin snapped again the lives of our already frustrated pilots.
A source at the Philippine Air Force (PAF) told me that Eight of these Sokols were transferred by “exasperated” Combat Wing of the PAF to its Rescue Wing because they are useless in landing on an unpaved soil because they used tires and not landing skids like those old American built Hueys.
Even they are used as air ambulance by the Rescue Wing, the source said, they have limited landing sites thus their capability to extract those wounded in the fields could be better served by the UH-1H helicopters.
I heard the Air Force regretted in buying these stuffs from Europe.
The Sokół made its first flight on 16 November 1979, and has since been certified in Poland, Russia, the US and Germany. It was designed to meet the demands of a military and civilian aviation of the Soviet Union, which was planned to be its major user. Following a development program, low rate production of the Sokół commenced during 1985.
(Send comments to totomortz@yahoo.com)

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17 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Concerned Citizen  |  September 5, 2010 at 8:29 pm

    It may sound like a bad Polish joke, but here it goes: How many Polish helicopters did the Polish government, which up until recently owned chopper manufacturer PZL-Swidnik, buy lately? The answer: None.
    Yes, Swidnik (now AugustaWestland Swidnik, after it was purchased by the Anglo-Italian helicopter maker earlier this year), cannot even sell its products —including those that the Philippines intends to buy for its military—to its own government. Instead, the Polish Ministry of Health went to rival multinational manufacturer Eurocopter to purchase 23 choppers for its emergency medical services fleet, the first of which were delivered last year.

    The deal to purchase helicopters for the Polish health ministry, by the way, was sealed in 2008, when Swidnik was still a state-owned company. That only means that the Polish government felt the local manufacturer’s helicopters were up to snuff even for emergency medical missions, let alone combat duty for its armed forces.

    Now we learn that our Department of National Defense has purchased eight brand-new combat utility helicopters worth P2.8 billion from Swidnik. The first four of these helicopters—probably military versions of company’s PZL W-3A Sokol (“Falcon”) general-purpose chopper —is scheduled to be delivered within a year, according to one DND official.

    Apart from the Polish Air Force, only the Czech and the Myanmar air forces are listed the primary users of the Sokol, of which 150 have been built since its introduction in 1985. Fully 80 percent of these helicopters were sold to the Polish government, which now does not even want to buy them anymore.

    Published reports say that the DND’s contract to purchase the Sokols was a government-to-government deal with Poland and part of the 15-year, P300-billion armed forces modernization program that is about to end. The Sokols are intended to replace the venerable and accident-prone hand-me-down UH-1H Huey choppers that the Philippine Air Force has been using for nearly half a century now.

    Earlier, the DND said it rejected plans to purchase reconditioned AH-1H Cobra attack helicopters from Israel, after the air force supposedly rejected that proposal. The Sokols, according to Defense Undersecretary Antonio Romero, met PAF’s requirements, particularly on lifting payload.

    But because the deal to purchase the Polish aircraft was done government-to-government, supposedly to avoid allegations of corruption, no competitive bidding was held, our sources say. This meant that the DND and the Air Force were unable to choose from other helicopters available from other manufacturers.

    In addition, these sources say that the purchase of Swidnik by its much-bigger competitor AugustaWestland bodes ill for the few countries that use Sokols in their armed forces. This is because Augusta will most likely shut down production of Sokols and other Swidnik craft, since these compete directly with their own products.

    This is, our sources explain, is especially true for the Sokol, which is in direct competition with the popular Augusta A159 and A139 models. “What kind of support will PAF receive when the assembly lines of this helicopter are shut down?” said one. “Augusta’s purchase of Swidnik only means that Augusta intends to use Swidnik’s facilities to manufacture engines and other parts for its own line of helicopters and to kill a small competitor.”

    All aircraft operators are aware that operation costs are more important in the long run than acquisition costs. Due to its old technology and dubious parts and support, the Sokol will cost more than more expensive new-generation helicopters by far.

    Besides, aircraft industry experts say that aircraft manufacturers from the former communist bloc have very poor reputation as far as after-sales support is concerned. The lack of available spare parts and costly repairs will entail the regular grounding of fleets that use them, making them virtually useless.

    Also, these sources add, the Sokol has a reputation of being grossly underpowered when compared with new-technology helicopters of same class. The aforementioned Augusta A159, for instance, with a maximum take-off weight of 6,000 kg, has a take-off power of 2,030 kw, whereas the Sokol with its 6,400 kg take-off weight has only has 1,340 kw power.

    And so, while the DND did choose one of the cheapest military helicopters in the market in the Sokol, there is actually no assurance that these choppers will be in service for a long time, because they will soon be out of production. And instead of modernizing the Philippine military, the purchase of these Polish helicopters may be a waste of scarce funds intended to upgrade our fighting capabilities.

    Indeed, while the focus has been on why the DND has been making big-ticket purchases only now, at the eve of the departure of the Arroyo administration, there has been little regard for the actual aircraft that the Philippines intends to buy. But any investigation of these so-called “midnight” purchases being made by the DND must also consider the type of equipment that is being bought.

    The military’s record of purchasing equipment, after all, has been marred by allegations of corruption for decades. That is why our fighting men end up with bullet-proof vests and helmets that fail to stop even the lowest-caliber bullets while their logistics officers become unexplained billionaires overnight.

    Reply
    • 2. daniel  |  May 15, 2015 at 9:18 am

      YOU HAVE NO IDEA OF WHAT YOU ARE TALKING ABOUT DUDE!!! you better research better, get better information and maybe….visit the factory…..How many Sokol W-3AS or A do you have/operate?? How many times have you been in a fire with one Sokol? let me tell you (I have over 1,000 hours on the type and flown many different types), when I was flying the 412 with a BLR kit HP and bla bla bla…I couldn’t reach to places with half of the weight where the other crews where reaching with the Sokol….that is real life!! and over 8 years working with both, not a book, not a “friend” telling about…real….and no problems with parts at all, not as bad as Eurocopter (sorry, Airbus!!! hahaha) thank God we sold them all!!

      And you compare a Sokol with a Cobra??? Really???? hahahah!! You better writte opinions about cars or motorbikes…..good luck!

      Reply
  • 3. Jack  |  September 23, 2010 at 8:43 pm

    http://www.pzl.swidnik.pl/en/w-3a-sokol/0,-5,14

    if they are phasing out sokols? why is agustawestland advertising the chopper in their site?

    you also failed to mention that the sokol has law enforcement operators in Germany, UAE, indonesia and south korea. there are several other civilian operators as well.

    Reply
  • 4. MUCH BETTER INFORMED CITIZEN  |  October 2, 2010 at 7:25 pm

    @concerned citizen,

    YOU SHOULD RESEARCH BETTER!!!

    The Sokol deal has been in the pipelines FOR 2 YEARS before it was approved. HENCE, IT’s NOT A MIDNIGHT DEAL!!!!

    and FYI, The Polish Air Force DOES USE SOKOLS.

    see? The PAF in my opinion is one of the MOST CAUTIOUS AF in the world…because of its limited funds AND PEOPLE LIKE YOU WHO COMMENTS WITHOUT SEEING ALL THE FACTS.

    Reply
  • 5. -ACHTUNG-  |  April 20, 2012 at 1:29 am

    up to 1800 shp for an aircraft of this size and weight compares very well to even Dedicated Attack Helicopters such as Eurocopter’s EC665 Tiger. With a Maximum takeoff weight of 6000kg, it runs of with a total of around 2400shp which is 600shp higher than the W3A, then remember the fact that the Tiger is a dedicated Attack helicopter and thus a higher power output is expected.

    On performance notes, the PZL W3A actually compares well to the Bell 412, which is an upgraded 212 with the same power and LESS weight.

    Reply
  • 6. Lioncub  |  June 13, 2012 at 10:19 am

    if only the sokol can carry hellfire and/or other antiship/sub missiles then this would be a good AH.,

    Reply
  • 7. Pogi  |  July 22, 2012 at 12:03 pm

    Its not AH its the CUH project and bell Cobra is single engined second hand and outdated avionics. AW-159 is for AH not CUH. We are talking about CUH project by DND and don’t mix up the two projects. conmpared to the brand new sparking two engined sokol with the most advance avionics today, 4 axis autopilot, note that the chinook of the US uses autopilot too but on the system on sokols are most advance than on chinook.

    Reply
  • 8. Mortz C. Ortigoza  |  July 23, 2013 at 9:44 pm

    Philippine president Benigno Aquino hits the eight Sokol bought by the Philippines from Poland, excerpts of his speech at his State of the Nation Address in July 2013: “Here is another example of the kind of thinking we’ve had to eradicate from government. Eight combat utility helicopters were bought for what they claimed to be “the more efficient deployment of our soldiers.” The problem: The guns the helicopters were equipped with were mounted at the door; requiring their removal in order to enable people to pass. If you are a soldier entering the fray at the height of battle, what use is a machine gun that is set aside and unable to fire? Did no one think about this before the contracts were signed? Why was this even approved in the first place?

    We have to be more discriminating buyers. We cannot rely on the sales talk of suppliers alone. We have tasked the DOST to assemble a body of experts who can critically assess suppliers’ pitches, especially on big-ticket items”

    Reply
  • 9. john reguera  |  July 31, 2013 at 12:18 am

    hmmm they should retrofit the sokols with wings to carry rocket launchers and guns..what we ordered looks more like a utiliy helicopter instead of a combat capable plus utility helicopter..

    Reply
  • 10. James  |  February 8, 2014 at 4:34 am

    It’s a good choppers that fits our needs. With a 5.5ft sliding door is more than enough for a buffalo to get inside, how much more for a gunner operating inside…..

    Reply
  • 11. James  |  March 3, 2014 at 11:09 am

    That is very easy to retrofit my dear friends…mas madali pa keysa ginawa ni General na nag papakarga sa isa niyang tauhan para lang hindi mabasa ang kanyang uniporme

    Reply
  • 12. Jonjon Carantes Flores  |  August 8, 2014 at 10:14 am

    seems like ur right………….

    Reply
  • 13. Macoy  |  February 15, 2015 at 11:44 am

    SHOTS FIRED!!!!

    Reply
  • 14. insek  |  November 8, 2016 at 8:30 pm

    I asked couple of months ago former Defense Secretary Jun Ebdane at his PALATIAL HOME in Zambales ……………..KATAS NG MINING KURAKOT

    Reply
  • 15. .  |  November 9, 2016 at 3:46 am

    Eight of these Sokols were transferred by “exasperated” Combat Wing of the Philippine Air Force to the Rescue Wing because they are useless in landing on an unpaved soil because they used tires and not landing skids like those old Hueys.. Even they are used as air ambulance by the Rescue Wing, the source said, they have limited landing sites thus their capability to extract those wounded in the fields could be better served by the UH-1H helicopters.
    I heard the Air Force regretted in buying these stuffs from Europe.
    The Sokół made its first flight on 16 November 1979, and has since been certified in Poland, Russia, the US and Germany. It was designed to meet the demands of a military and civilian aviation of the Soviet Union, which was planned to be its major user. Following a development program, low rate production of the Sokół commenced during 1985.

    Reply
  • 16. .  |  November 9, 2016 at 4:09 am

    A Philippine Air Force’s Sokol helicopter carrying 13 police and military personnel, including ranking officials, crash landed on a rice field in Puerto Princesa, Palawan, on Tuesday afternoon.
    Initial reports from the police said among those on board the helicopter were Chief Supt. Wilben Mayor, regional director of the Mimaropa regional police, and other top police officials, including Philippine National Police’s operations head Chief Supt. Camilo Cascolan and Chief Supt. Nestor Bergonia, chief of the PNP’s National Operations Center.
    All passengers were reported safe but at least two of them suffered minor injuries.
    ADVERTISEMENT

    Police said around 2 p.m., the Air Force Sokol 926 carrying Mayor and his party left to conduct an aerial inspection for the Asean Chief Justices meeting to be held in Palawan.
    The aircraft experienced a mechanical problem and crash landed on a rice field in Sitio Sabang in Barangay (village) Cabayugan.
    The Western Command of the Armed Forces of the Philippines immediately sent an air ambulance and another aircraft to the area./rga

    Read more: http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/842316/air-force-chopper-carrying-13-police-military-men-crashes-in-palawan#ixzz4PRx8IaTm
    Follow us: @inquirerdotnet on Twitter | inquirerdotnet on Facebook

    Reply
  • 17. .  |  November 10, 2016 at 6:40 am

    VIDEO ON POOR SOKOL’S CHOPPER
    3 Generals muntik ng mamatay. Crashed PAF’s Sokol helicopter binili sa Poland, depektibo? Mahinang chopper daw ito, ayon sa mga experto. (Copy and Paste link to Face Book )

    Reply

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