The Swedish armed forces have begun operational use of four newly purchased Black Hawks in Afghanistan.
The Swedish Air Element, based at Camp Marmal near Mazar-e-Sharif, officially began operations with the Black Hawk, locally designated Hkp 16, on April 1, following the deployment of the aircraft in mid-March. The Swedish Black Hawks are being used for medevac duties and troop transport.
The deployment comes 14 months after the arrival of the first aircraft and just more than two years after the Swedish government placed the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) order with the U.S. government for 15 aircraft in October 2010.
The first UH-60M flew in Afghanistan on March 18. All four helos then made test and familiarization flights before the aircraft and crews were declared operationally ready. The unit has 40 people including crews, engineers and medical staff. The aircraft are on 15-min. notice to scramble to medical emergencies around the region. No operational call outs have been reported.
The aircraft were flown to the theater on board one of NATO’s Heavy Airlift Wing, in which Sweden has a share.
The Black Hawks will replace a trio of upgradedSuper Pumas, known as Hkp 10B’s, which have served in the medevac role from Camp Marmal since April 2011. These aircraft returned to Sweden on March 25 and will continue to fly with the Swedish armed forces until enough have entered service to replace them. The Super Pumas completed 82 operational evacuation missions before the end of their deployment.
The aircraft typically fly with four crewmembers: two pilots, a crew chief and a mission specialist. While in the medevac role, a doctor and nurse will be added.
The aircraft will also be armed with M240 7.62mm machine guns. The Swedish aircraft are almost exactly the same as the U.S. Army helos. The only difference is that the Swedish helos feature an Emergency Locator Transmitter, which is not needed in the U.S. but required in Sweden.
It is not clear when the Black Hawk deployment will end, although many countries are concluding their combat operations in late 2014 and into 2015.
The deployment comes at a busy time for the Swedish Helicopter Wing. As well as the Black Hawks deployment, the Wing is also deploying two of its-built AW109 Light Utility Helicopters, known as Hkp 15s, to Djibouti. The helos will support the Swedish mission to the European Union’s Atalanta anti-piracy operation. One of the AW109s will be based in Djibouti, while the other will operate from the back of the Ocean Patrol Vessel HMS Carlskrona.