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