Ministry of Defence of Latvia is currently looking into possibility of signing an intergovernmental agreement with the US for purchase of four new medium-lift utility helicopters UH-60M Black Hawk worth around €175 million. Black Hawks would replace the existing helicopters and boost the combat capabilities of National Armed Forces.
“Replacement of helicopters is crucial. Rotorcraft will not only be used for different military purposes, it will also be utilised during civilian operations, serving the public needs,” underlines Defence Minister Raimonds Bergmanis.
After the signing of intergovernmental agreement, National Armed Forces will receive rotorcraft, associated equipment and installation services, training of pilots, crew members and technical personnel, spare parts and maintenance, full technical documentation and software licenses. The deal will possibly be co-financed by the US from its support programmes.
After evaluating available types of medium-lift utility helicopters, it was concluded that UH-60M Black Hawk match the identified National Armed Force military and civilian requirements. The key advantage of UH-60M Black Hawk is its build and life cycle. The primary purpose of Black Hawk is military crisis. Acquisition of such rotorcraft would ensure compatibility with the US forces stationed in the region and would allow to continue the existing joint training programmes between military units.
Purchase of UH-60M Black Hawk helicopters would ensure rapid response and lift capabilities, enabling armed forces to reach its identified operational goals. It would also ensure capability to provide troop and equipment lift, crisis support, medical evacuation, search and rescue, and other support missions, including aerial firefighting, in all weather conditions. UH-60M Black Hawk can be equipped with necessary combat weapons systems.
According to plans, National Armed Forces will receive its first UH-60M Black Hawks in 2021. The total amount of contract would reach around €175 million, VAT included.
The US government will provide crucial long-term assistance, helping National Armed Forces learn how to operate the rotorcraft, maintain and use the associated equipment. US Armed Force Black Hawk helicopter units are already rotating to Lielvārde Air Base since 2015, which will ensure that the introduction and operation of rotorcraft by Latvian military will be a lot smoother.
Latvia will continue to close collaborate with the US military and Michigan National Guard on training of helicopter pilots and technical staff. Both sides will also continue joint tactical exercise to ensure the appropriate return from acquisition of rotorcraft. Due to these factors, and the fact that Black Hawk would enable NAF to meet its goals in the best possible way, the signing of the intergovernmental agreement for purchase of UH-60M Black Hawk helicopters would be the most appropriate decision.
Lt Gen Leonīds Kalniņš, Chief of the Defence Staff, made a working visit to USA on 11-17 August. While in the US, Lt Gen Kalniņš visited Grand Ledge Aviation Base in Michigan to discuss with his US colleagues the capabilities, maintenance, pilot training and logistics support for acquisition of UH-60M Black Hawk.
UH-60M is the third generation Black Hawk helicopter introduced by the US Armed Forces 11 years ago. US Armed Forces are currently gradually implementing full transition to the new type of Black Hawk helicopters. In comparison with previous generation rotorcraft UH-60L, UH-60M has more powerful engine, better seats and improved survivability. Instruments are fully digitalised and flight planning and control has been simplified. UH-60M has new, composite blades and integrated control system, which gives constant updates on helicopter’s performance.
Michigan National Guard and Latvia celebrate 25-year partnership this year. Michigan Guard has made a significant input in the advancement of Air Force base, facilitating the development and testing of airfield for landing/take-off of aircraft, as well as training air base staff. The most significant military-technical cooperation initiatives implemented by Latvia and the US are rolled out in scope of Foreign Military Financing (FMF) assistance and supply scheme. More than USD 56 million had been earmarked from FMF for various projects in 2018.
Military Public Affairs Department