USA may co-fi­nance Latvia’s pur­chase of Black Hawk he­li­copters

Baltic News Network - - News -

Latvia’s planned pur­chase of a Black Hawk he­li­copters for the needs of its army may be co-fi­nanced from US sup­port pro­grammes, De­fence Min­istry says.

To en­sure tac­ti­cal air trans­porta­tion ca­pa­bil­i­ties and their devel­op­ment for Latvia’s Na­tional Armed Forces, re­place­ment process for medium-class he­li­copters has been launched. The min­istry and Latvia’s army have per­formed a mar­ket as­sess­ment. Dur­ing this process, sev­eral medium-class he­li­copter of­fers were re­ceived. It was con­cluded in the end that UH-60M Black Hawk model is the best choice for the needs of Latvia’s army.

Latvia’s gov­ern­ment cur­rently con­sid­ers sign­ing an in­ter-gov­ern­men­tal con­tract with USA for the pur­pose of the pur­chase. USA may agree to fi­nance the pur­chase from one of its on­go­ing sup­port pro­grammes. It is also planned to con­tinue close co­op­er­a­tion with US armed forces and Michi­gan Na­tional Guard to or­ga­nize pi­lot and main­te­nance crew train­ing, the min­istry ex­plains. The main ad­van­tage of the Black Hawk he­li­copter is its ‘struc­ture and longevity’, be­cause this model was cre­ated specif­i­cally for mil­i­tary needs in crit­i­cal sit­u­a­tions, the min­istry claims. Use of the same type of he­li­copters will en­sure com­pat­i­bil­ity with US forces in the re­gion and help con­tinue es­tab­lished co­op­er­a­tion be­tween dif­fer­ent units.

The pur­chase of a UH-60M model would en­sure rapid re­sponse ca­pa­bil­ity and high mo­bil­ity for lo­cal forces in all types of weather con­di­tions and for all kinds of op­er­a­tions, in­clud­ing med­i­cal evac­u­a­tion, equip­ment trans­porta­tion, search and res­cue op­er­a­tions, etc., the min­istry notes. Look­ing at how tac­tics em­ployed by Latvia’s Na­tional Armed Forces may de­velop in the fu­ture, UH-60M he­li­copters will be able to carry dif­fer­ent weapon sys­tems. Weapon in­stal­la­tion will be in­cluded in the base or­der. Sup­port from the US gov­ern­ment over a long pe­riod of time is very im­por­tant be­cause in­tro­duc­tion of a UH-60M means adding se­ri­ous and com­pli­cated equip­ment to NAF’s arsenal. Be­cause of that, ex­pe­ri­ence and knowl­edge in main­te­nance and use this kind of equip­ment is very im­por­tant, the min­istry stresses.

The min­istry re­minds that the US al­ready has Black Hawk units sta­tioned on a ro­ta­tional ba­sis in Lielvārde, which rep­re­sents a good foun­da­tion for fu­ture co­op­er­a­tion there.

2018 marks 25 years since Latvia’s and Michi­gan Na­tional Guard en­tered part­ner re­la­tions pro­gramme. Michi­gan Na­tional Guard has con­tributed a lot to the devel­op­ment of Latvia’s Air Force Base, help­ing de­velop and test the air­field, as well as train­ing spe­cial­ists.

It is planned that the first sup­plies of he­li­copters may be per­formed in 2021.

The goal be­hind pro­cure­ment of new he­li­copters is re­plac­ing six ex­ist­ing he­li­copters. More de­tailed plans will be­come clear af­ter new he­li­copters have been sup­plied. The US Depart­ment of State has given Latvia green light to pro­cure four Black Hawk he­li­copters from USA, as re­ported by De­fence News.

The deal is es­ti­mated to cost around USD 200 mil­lion.

Cur­rently Latvia’s Air Forces have four used Mi-17 he­li­copters and two Mi-2 He­li­copters.

REUTERS/SCANPIX

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