Sweden Ordering H-60M Helicopters for Afghan CSAR/MEDEVAC
In September 2010, required DSCA arms sale notifications announced a possible Swedish buy of up to 15 UH-60M Black Hawk helicopters, plus side items like engines, defensive systems, and support, for up to $546 million. Their mission? Combat Search And Rescue & MEDEVAC missions in Afghanistan, a Swedish program worth over $750 million all told.
The announcement was surprising, because Sweden already flies the UH-60M’s main competitor – NHI’s NH90 TTH. Sweden’s 13 machines were even ordered in a “high cabin” configuration that’s especially well suited to combat search and rescue and MEDEVAC operations, and Eurocopter had unveiled a German NH90-TTH MEDEVAC kit on June 4/10. On the other hand, the NH90 has been plagued by slow deliveries, and slower certification and acceptance. Was the interest serious, or was it just a shot across NHI’s bow? In May 2011, the verdict came in: Sweden was serious. With full operational capability for their NH90s delayed to 2020, Sweden bought the Black Hawks. They are now working on acceptance and local customization, for deployment to Afghanistan and other operations abroad in 2013.
Contracts & Key Events
It’s worth explaining the structure of this deal up front. Sikorsky is selling 15 “green” (basic) UH-60M aircraft to the U.S. Army, for sale to Sweden as a typical Foreign Military Sale transaction process. Engines, training and spares will be addressed by other contracts.
Sweden’s FMV will also purchase and install the specialized equipment required to turn the helicopters into CSAR/MEDEVAC machines like the USA’s HH-60s: stackable litter system, hoist, medical equipment, etc.
April 1/13: A pair of “HKP 16″ helicopters begin flying operational missions from Mazar-e-Sharif AB, Afghanistan, after final familiarization flights in Afghanistan. They’re replacing 2 Eurocopter AS332 Super Pumas, which returned to Kallax, Luleå on March 25/13. Flight International.
July 12/12: Support. Sikorsky Aircraft Corp. in Stratford, CT receives a $41.9 million firm-fixed-price contract modification, buying Integrated Logistics Support, Program Management, Aircraft Warranty, Maintenance Manpower and Software Loading to support Sweden’s 15 UH-60Ms.
Work will be performed in Stratford, CT until Dec 31/14. One bid was solicited, with one bid received by U.S. Army Contracting Command in Redstone Arsenal, AL (W58RGZ-08-C-0003).
Jan 18/12: Support. The support agreement involving Saab and Sikorsky takes effect. See also June 20/11 entry. Saab.
Jan 17/12: Delivery. Sweden formally accepts its 1st of 15 UH-60M/ HKP 16 Combat Search And Rescue helicopters into the armed forces, at a ceremony held at Malmi Airport in Linkoping. Swedish FMV [in Swedish].
2010 – 2011
Dec 12/11: The first 2 Swedish UH-60Ms arrive in a C-17 transport aircraft. Project Manager Magnus Larsson, FMV talks about an often-overlooked aspect of the buy:
“And not least we have worked to obtain approvals related to the Swedish aviation rules and regulations. Helicopter 16 is a proven system. Over 3000 Black Hawk is supplied to various customers in the world and our job is to facilitate the Flight Safety Inspectorate to assess what the U.S. aviation authorities have already approved.”
Nov 17/11: Sikorsky delivers the 4th of 15 base UH-60Ms to the US Army, for further transfer to the Swedish FMV. Within the 18-month accelerated production schedule, a total of 7 helicopters are on schedule for delivery from September through December 2011, with the other 8 deliveries scheduled through the fall of 2012.
The accelerated build schedule is meant to let the Swedish Armed Forces deploy 3 Swedish-modified UH-60M CSAR helicopters to Afghanistan in April, 2013. Sikorsky.
Oct 11/11: Support. Sikorsky in Stratford, CT receives a $12.5 million firm-fixed-price contract to buy spares and ground support equipment for Sweden’s 15 UH-60M CSAR helicopters.
Work will be performed in Stratford, CT, with an estimated completion date of Oct 31/12. One bid was solicited, with one bid received by the U.S. Army Contracting Command in Redstone Arsenal, AL, who manages the contracts on behalf of their Swedish Foreign Military Sale client (W58RGZ-08-C-0003).
June 20/11: Support. Sikorsky Aerospace Services and Sweden’s Saab Group sign a teaming agreement for HKP-16 (Swedish UH-60M CSAR) helicopter support.
The agreement will commence when the first UH-60M helicopter is delivered later in 2011. They’ll create a joint HKP 16 maintenance organization to be ready for initial SwAF training at the main operating base in Linkoping, and gradually build up further training and support capabilities in Sweden. Sikorsky | Saab.
May 25/11: Contract. Contract details emerge, because it’s pursued as a Foreign Military Sale buy. Sikorsky Aircraft Corp. in Stratford, CT receives a $207.1 million firm-fixed-price contract for 15 Swedish UH-60M helicopters, “and government furnished equipment to contractor furnished equipment.” As noted below, the final budget is a great deal bigger (SKR 4.7 billion/ $772 million), due to the deal’s dual US/Swedish procurement approach. This contract includes $32 million of contractor furnished equipment (radios etc.), and one-time engineering – but not engines, or training and support, or spares, or modifications to the helicopters.
Work will be performed in Stratford, CT, with an estimated completion date of Dec 31/12. One bid was solicited, with one bid received, by U.S. Army AMCOM Contracting Center at Redstone Arsenal, AL, on behalf of its FMS client (W58RGZ-08-C-0003).
May 18/11: Agreement. Sikorsky announces that Sweden’s FMV procurement agency has signed an agreement for 15 UH-60M helicopters via the U.S. Government’s Foreign Military Sales program. Sikorsky using an accelerated schedule, and is slated to deliver 6 of the helicopters in 2011 and the remaining 9 in 2012.
The announcement comes just a day after reports that Pentagon safety inspectors issued a top-tier Level III Corrective Action Request in February 2011, in response to failures of a valve in the Black Hawk’s fire suppression system during acceptance testing.
15 base UH-60Ms
April 9/11: Swedish media report that Sweden will indeed buy 15 Black Hawk helicopters for use in Afghanistan. The reports cite speed of delivery, and commonality with allied helicopters in theater, as the primary reasons behind this choice. Sweden reportedly envisions the UH-60s arriving in 2012 and beginning service in theater by 2013, to replace deployed Eurocopter AS332/ HKP 10B Super Puma MEDEVAC helicopters. The entire H-60M fleet would be fully operational by 2017.
The details aren’t final yet, as reports throughout April placed Sweden in final negotiations. The current MEDEVAC/CSAR variant of the Black Hawk is actually the HH-60M, and it carries a range of specialized equipment. Sweden would be the type’s 1st export order if it makes that choice, but they might also choose to buy basic UH-60M airframes per the DSCA request, and customize them to their own requirements.
Flight International’s HeliCAS database says that Sweden has received 7 NH90/ HKP 14s thus far for testing and early preparation, but their fleet isn’t expected to be fully operational until 2020 or so – 19+ years after the order was placed. That has created a large opening for Sikorsky’s Black Hawks, and the government is estimating SKR 4.7 billion ($772 million) for the purchase and training services, plus some items not announced in the DSCA report like through-life operating costs and maintenance. Dagbladet Nyheter [in Swedish] | Flight International | Helihub.
Sept 30/10: The US DSCA announces [PDF] Sweden’s formal request to buy up to 15 UH-60M Black Hawk helicopters; 34 T700-GE-701D General Electric Engines (30 installed and 4 spares); 15 AN/AAR-57v3 Common Missile Warning Systems, AN/APR-39 Radar Signal Detecting Sets, and AN/AVR-2B Laser Warning Sets; an Aviation Mission Planning Station; a transportable operations simulator; plus communications equipment, spare and repair parts, tools and support equipment, publications and technical documentation, personnel training and training equipment, and U.S. Government and contractor support.
The estimated cost is up to $546 million, and the prime contractors will be Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation in Stratford, CT; and General Electric Aircraft Company in Lynn, MA. The DSCA adds that:
“Swedish forces are currently deployed in support of coalition efforts in Afghanistan. This sale will enable the Swedish Forces to address an urgent shortfall in Combat Search and Rescue and Medical Evacuation transport capability while in the area of operations.”
At this point, it wasn’t yet clear whether this was a genuine opening for the UH-60M in Sweden, or whether the Swedish government was just firing a shot across NH Industries’ bow. By May 2011, it became clear that the request was serious.