Poland continues defense spending splurge, buys 96 Apache gunships

Poland came out with a surprise announcement of the purchase of 96 Boeing AH-64E Apache attack helicopters. 

The order marks a significant ramp-up of the country’s Kruk program – an effort to replace its fleet of ageing Soviet-era Mil Mi-24 Hinds. 

Polish Defense minister Mariusz Błaszczak announced the purchase on September 8, 2022, during a meeting of the Ukraine Contact Group.

“Another good news! We sent an inquiry to the USA regarding the acquisition of 96 AH-64 Apache helicopters in the latest Guardian version for the needs of the Aviation of the Land Forces. Along with the helicopters we also obtained the transfer of technologies,” Błaszczak tweeted. 

Significant upgrade 

Currently the 1st Aviation brigade of the Polish Land Forces operates 28 Mi-24W and Mi-24D attack helicopters – heavily upgraded versions of the Mi-24V, built in the 1970s and 80s. 

The Kruk (Polish for Raven) program, intended to either further upgrade or replace them, was initiated in 2014. 

Initially the program considered five variants for the replacement: the Airbus Tiger, the Leonardo AW249, the TAI T129, the Boeing AH-64E and the Bell AH-1Z. 

In April 2022, Boeing’s and Bell’s offers were shortlisted, eliminating the option of upgrading the Mi-24s as well. 

The choice to increase the number of helicopters purchased to nearly 100 was an unexpected one. Once delivered, they will make Poland the second-largest operator of the Apache after the US. 

Spending spree 

The purchase follows a significant splurge of spending Poland initiated after the start of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. 

In April 2022, Poland announced its intention to increase its defense spending to over 3% of gross domestic product. 

A purchase of tanks, artillery pieces and other heavy equipment followed, with the aim of replacing large stocks of Soviet-era kit Poland operates. 

Besides the previously-announced intention to purchase the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II fifth-generation fighter jet, Poland went on to order 48 KAI FA-50 light combat aircraft from South Korea. 

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