Lithuania Signs For Black Hawks

Credit: Lithuanian MOD - I.Budzeikatė / T.Balkus

Lithuania has signed a contract to purchase U.S.-supplied Black Hawk helicopters to replace Soviet-era rotorcraft.

Vilnius will pay €181 million ($215 million) for four Sikorsky UH-60Ms, spreading the payments over the next five years for the Foreign Military Sale, Lithuanian defense officials confirmed Nov. 13. 

The U.S. is providing €26 million in support for the procurement. Lithuania has received approvals to purchase an additional two Black Hawks if required. 

Deliveries are planned for late 2024, by when the Lithuanian Armed Forces will have fully trained pilots and ground-support specialists for the helicopters. 

The rotorcraft will replace the Mil Mi-8T helicopters currently used by the Lithuanian Air Force as transporters and for search and rescue missions. Officials said operation of the Russian aircraft had become difficult in recent years with expensive and unscheduled maintenance requirements. The air force also faces challenges in securing spares for the aircraft from Russia. 

Purchase of the Black Hawks forms part of a wider modernization of the country’s armed forces, which also includes the introduction of two Kongsberg Norwegian Advanced Surface to Air Missile System (NASAMS) ground-based air defenses. 

Commenting on the Black Hawks, Lithuanian defense minister Raimundas Karoblis said: “This acquisition is one of the most critical elements in the modernization 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,” he added. 

Lithuania was approved for the purchase of six UH-60Ms, defensive aids and weapons, associated ammunition, engines, and electro-optical camera systems worth $380 million, the U.S. Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) detailed in July. 

Lithuania opted for the Black Hawk following a market analysis based on requirements developed by the country’s armed forces. Details of the other helicopter types examined were not disclosed. 

The new helicopters will provide troop transport and perform search and rescue, emergency medical service flights and firefighting.

Tony Osborne

Based in London, Tony covers European defense programs. Prior to joining Aviation Week in November 2012, Tony was at Shephard Media Group where he was deputy editor for Rotorhub and Defence Helicopter magazines.