Air Transportation: Poland Beats Russia At Its Own Game


March 10, 2012: The Philippines has received the first four (of eight) W-3A transport helicopters from Poland. Two years ago, after several years of negotiations, the Philippines ordered eight W-3As from Polish firm PZL-Swidnik. The six ton W-3 was originally developed in Poland in the 1970s and was sold to other East European nations during the Cold War, as a competitor to the Russian Mi-8. When the Cold War ended, the W-3 was upgraded and certified to operate in Western countries. The twin engine W-3 can carry twelve passengers. Some W-3s were used with Polish troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

There is also a W-3PL "battle support" helicopter version, and some of these are with Polish troops in Afghanistan. This is not a gunship, however, it does have an armored floor but it is otherwise not as robust as choppers specifically built as gunships. The W-3PL has a radar, HUD (head up display), anti-missile system (detectors and flare dispensers), and is armed with a 12.7mm machine-gun turret under the nose. There are winglets for carrying rockets and missiles.

The Philippines bought the W-3 because the aircraft had a good track record and it was, like the Russian Mi-8, cheap (in this case, $6.3 million each). But the main reason for buying the W-3s was that Swidnik was the only bidder. The Philippines was unwilling to pay higher prices that all the other helicopter manufacturers were asking. Poland had another advantage, in that its products have a better reputation for quality and reliability than their Russian counterparts.


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