On November 13 Minister of National Defence Raimundas Karoblis and acting U.S. Secretary of Defence Christopher C.Miller signed a contract on acquisition of a new UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter platform from the Government of the United States. The Lithuanian Armed Forces is buying four UH-60M Black Hawk helicopters with additional equipment, spares, and a training, repair and logistical support package.
Lithuania will pay EUR 181 million (USD 213 million) over next five years to the U.S. Government for the purchase.
The U.S Government additionally provides roughly EUR 26 million (USD 30 million) financial support for the project. Lithuania also received approval from the U.S. Congress to procure two more helicopters in the future if necessary.
The first shipment of the Black Hawks could be delivered to Lithuania in late 2024 when the Lithuanian Armed Forces will have fully trained personnel – pilots and ground support specialists – to work with the new platform, and ready maintenance and ground support equipment.
The decision to pass on to a modern western technology that meets all criteria and requirements was made in order to ensure proper readiness of armed forces to face the challenges of modern armed conflicts, as well as excellent compatibility and interoperability with allies. The new platform will fully substitute for the Mi-8Ts currently used by the Lithuanian Armed Forces. The Soviet-made helicopter fleet is in its thirties and its airworthiness has come to the deadline, its operation is also difficult: expensive maintenance, prone to failures, risky repair because of the complicated provision of spares from Russia.
“This acquisition is one of the most critical elements in the modernisation and enhancement of the Lithuanian Armed Forces, and a significant qualitative leap in supplying the military with contemporary and capable weaponry. By dropping the last Soviet relic and progressing to a Western helicopter platform we are beginning a completely new phase for the Lithuanian Air Force and moving in step with U.S. and other most advanced NATO allies’ militaries,” Minister of National Defence Raimundas Karoblis says.
“Black Hawks are manoeuvrable, high speed and reliable utility tactical helicopters known for best results in numerous military operations. They will provide the possibility for the Lithuanian Armed Forces to carry out a significantly more effective military training, render air support to the infantry, airlift small units, medical evacuation, and other tasks. We will also be able to complete domestic support tasks, such as search and rescue, emergency transportation of organs, firefighting, more effectively,” Chief of Defence Lt Gen Valdemaras Rupšys says.
The future air assets of the Lithuanian Armed Forces are moderate-sized, one of the most versatile, probably the most widely used helicopters in the last decade conflicts, and proven the best among other helicopters of such type. The Black Hawk was picked from four manufacturer’s bids as the best match to the needs of the Lithuanian Armed Forces. It will significantly boost the combat power of the Lithuanian Armed Forces, ensure quality military training, and make completion of domestic support and tactical tasks quicker, safer, and more precise.
The new platform will significantly improve interaction with strategic and regional partners – armed forces of thirty countries worldwide, including Denmark, Latvia, Poland and Sweden, acquired the platform of the same manufacturer. It will expand the opportunities to train and carry out operations together in more numerous groups of personnel, alongside partners that also operate Black Hawks.
Fast, manoeuvrable and efficient UH-60M Black Hawk helicopters will also enable the Lithuanian Armed Forces to respond to aid requests significantly more quickly and to assist with search and rescue tasks. Air Force helicopters on 24/7 standby are called in to rescue those in distress at sea, lost or missing on land, to transport donor organs for transplantation, or to extinguish fires.
Photo credits: I.Budzeikatė (Lithuanian Armed Forces)