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Colombia Orders UH-60L Helicopters, Saves Some Money

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UH-60 Blackhawk According to Sikorsky, Colombia’s Air Force, Army, and national police forces make that country the 3rd largest fleet operator of its S-70/UH-60 Black Hawk utility helicopters. Ongoing defense modernization, and a continuing operation against narco-paramilitaries that include the Venezuelan-backed FARC, have kept that fleet busy, and created a consistent need for more helicopters to carry troops in Colombia’s difficult terrain. Milavia’s OrBat suggests a total of about 85 H-60s in all branches of Colombia’s military. Many of Colombia’s helicopters are UH-60A equivalents, though about 16 have been upgraded to “AH-60 Arpia” attack helicopter status with surveillance turrets, rockets, and forward-firing guns. Since 2005, a steady drumbeat of DSCA notifications and contracts concern UH-60L upgrades, or new helicopters, that will add to Colombia’s fleet. While other customers like the US military, Bahrain, the UAE and even Colombia’s G-3 trade bloc neighbor Mexico are ordering the newest UH-60Ms, Colombia sees an opportunity to save money by sticking with the UH-60L as its top-end standard. Contracts & Key Events S-70 Arpia(click to view full) March 21/13: The Colombian Army formally inducts 5 new Sikorsky S-70i helicopters, which arrived in country on Jan 30/13. They were built at Sikorsky’s plant in Mielec, […]
UH-60 Blackhawk

UH-60 Blackhawk

According to Sikorsky, Colombia’s Air Force, Army, and national police forces make that country the 3rd largest fleet operator of its S-70/UH-60 Black Hawk utility helicopters. Ongoing defense modernization, and a continuing operation against narco-paramilitaries that include the Venezuelan-backed FARC, have kept that fleet busy, and created a consistent need for more helicopters to carry troops in Colombia’s difficult terrain.

Milavia’s OrBat suggests a total of about 85 H-60s in all branches of Colombia’s military. Many of Colombia’s helicopters are UH-60A equivalents, though about 16 have been upgraded to “AH-60 Arpia” attack helicopter status with surveillance turrets, rockets, and forward-firing guns. Since 2005, a steady drumbeat of DSCA notifications and contracts concern UH-60L upgrades, or new helicopters, that will add to Colombia’s fleet. While other customers like the US military, Bahrain, the UAE and even Colombia’s G-3 trade bloc neighbor Mexico are ordering the newest UH-60Ms, Colombia sees an opportunity to save money by sticking with the UH-60L as its top-end standard.

Contracts & Key Events

S-70 Arpia

S-70 Arpia
(click to view full)

March 21/13: The Colombian Army formally inducts 5 new Sikorsky S-70i helicopters, which arrived in country on Jan 30/13. They were built at Sikorsky’s plant in Mielec, Poland, then custom-equipped in the United States for the Special Forces of the Colombian Army’s Air Assault Division.

The 5 S-70is are a new addition to Colombia’s military, which flies a fleet of 96 UH-60Ls in Colombia’s Air Force (FAC), Army, and National Police. The digital cockpit and advanced avionics includes a dual GPS/INS system with digital map, and the helicopters’ power is equivalent to the UH-60M. To support it, Colombian team also had to graduate instructor pilots and maintenance trainers.

Sikorsky’s release says that these 101 machines make Colombia the world’s 4th-largest Black Hawk fleet. The USA is obviously the largest operator, with South Korea and Turkey just ahead of Colombia.

July 25/12: 5 requested. The US DSCA announces [PDF] Colombia’s official request to buy up to 5 UH-60L Black Hawk Helicopters, 10 T700-GE-701D General Electric Engines to equip them, plus warranties, added internal fuel tanks, spare and repair parts, training, and US government and contractor support.

The estimated cost if a contract is negotiated is up to $87 million, and the prime contractor will be Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation in Stratford, CT. Implementation will require U.S. Government or contractor representatives to travel to Colombia for a period of 6 weeks for equipment deprocessing/fielding, and system checkout.

July 10/12: Maintenance contract. Sikorsky Aerospace Services (SAS) announces an unspecified contract to double the size of the in-country maintenance support team for the Colombian Army’s UH-60/S-70 fleet. Under the annually-renewable Scheduled and Unscheduled Maintenance Services contract, 42 Sikorsky-trained technicians will perform Phase Maintenance Inspections and 120-hour inspections at the Aviation Maintenance Base in Tolemaida.

Sikorsky is also on the verge of inaugurating the S-70 Helicopter Training Facility at the Colombian Air Force Base in Melgar.

May 3/11: +7. Sikorsky Aircraft Corp. in Stratford, CT receives an $84.6 million firm-fixed-price contract for “the conversion of seven aircraft,” for Colombia, plus technical publications and aircraft warranty.

Discussions with Sikorsky confirm that these are actually 7 new UH-60L helicopters: 3 Army utility, 3 Police utility, and 1 Air Force (FAC) MEDEVAC. The UH-60Ls will be among the last helicopters of their type produced by Sikorsky, under the MYP-VI multi-year contract for the USA and international buyers (MYP-VII is the current one, for UH-60Ms). The conversions mentioned by the Pentagon are from the US Army baseline configuration to the Colombian Army, Police and Air Force baseline configurations, involving different radios and defensive systems, plus MEDEVAC equipment for the FAC.

These completions will be performed at the Sikorsky Military Completion Center in Elmira, NY, with an estimated completion date of Nov 30/14. One bid was solicited with one bid received by the U.S. Army Aviation & Missile Command in Redstone Arsenal, AL (DAAH23-02-C-0006).

7 UH-60Ls

Aug 5/10: 9 requested. The US DSCA announces [PDF] Colombia’s official request to buy 9 UH-60L Black Hawk Helicopters (1 Colombian Air Force, 4 Colombian National Police, 4 Colombian Army), with 18 T700-GE-701D General Electric Engines installed, internal fuel tanks, spare and repair parts, tools and support equipment, publications and technical documentation, warranty, personnel training and training equipment, and U.S. Government and contractor support services. The estimated cost is up to $162 million.

March 24/10: Infrastructure. Sikorsky Aerospace Services announces an agreement with the Colombian Ministry of Defense to establish a Black Hawk Helicopter Training Facility at the Colombian Air Force Base in Melgar. The Training Facility will offer a full motion Black Hawk helicopter simulator to support pilot training for the Colombian Armed Services

“…as well as all Sikorsky military customers in Latin America. Structured as an offset program, the facility will be a launching point for development of Maintenance Repair and Overhaul services, spares and training center for both fixed and rotary wing aircraft.”

Nov 4/08: Sikorsky Aerospace Services announces a “multimillion- dollar contract” to convert 6 Colombian Air Force UH-60A helicopters into the more modern UH-60L configuration, and supply 2 additional upgrade kits. The firm has performed A-to-L conversions on U.S. Army Black Hawk helicopters, but this is the first foreign sale for that conversion. The release adds that “Colombia operates the world’s third-largest BLACK HAWK helicopter fleet…”

The A-to-L conversion program includes a T700-701D engine upgrade for increased power and reliability, an enhanced main gearbox with increased durability, new flight controls and wiring harnesses, and improvements to its avionics and instrument panel. The Sikorsky Aerospace Maintenance unit of Sikorsky Aerospace Services will perform most of the work at its Chase Field, TX facility. Sikorsky Aerospace Services’ Helicopter Support, Inc. (HSI) unit will procure the parts and manage the program.

6 UH-60As to UH-60Ls

Jan 29/08: A Colombian S-70 is Sikorsky Support Services, Inc. (SSSI) first refurbished helicopter to emerge from the new Field Operations Maintenance Facility in Beeville, TX. “In addition to structural repairs for crash damage to the Colombian S-70, SSSI performed upgrades and modifications, and is continuing its long-time field support for all the Colombian aircraft.”

The SSSI operation was previously located in Jacksonville, FL, but relocated because it needed additional space. The Chase Field facility began operations in August 2007 with the support of the Beeville Development Authority, local Chamber of Commerce, and state and local governments. It includes two 90,000-square-foot hangars, an 8,000-foot-long airfield, and sufficient room for future expansion. Approximately 70 employees currently work at Chase Field, and the number is growing. Other work currently in progress at the new facility includes crash damage repairs and refurbishment for both domestic and international military customers, as well as wiring upgrades for a National Guard helicopter. Sikorsky.

June 21/07: +15. Sikorsky announces a Letter of Offer and Acceptance wth the government of Colombia to acquire 15 Sikorsky UH-60L Black Hawk helicopters from the U.S. Army (i.e. second-hand) plus spares, support, and training, in a $225 million sale.

15 UH-60Ls

Sept 27/06: The US DSCA announces [PDF] Colombia’s official request to buy 15 UH-60L helicopters with engines, spare and repair parts, tools and support equipment, publications and technical data, personnel training and training equipment, and other U.S. Government and contractor support. The estimated cost is up to $303 million.

The principal contractors will be Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation of Stratford, CT and General Electric of Lynn, MA. There are no known offset agreements proposed in connection with this potential sale.

Oct 14/05: 2 MEDEVAC requested. The US DSCA announces [PDF] Colombia’s official request to buy 2 UH-60L MEDEVAC Black Hawk helicopters with T700-GE-701C or 401C engines, spare and repair parts, communications and support equipment, publications and technical data, personnel training and training equipment, and other contractor support services. The estimated cost is up to $43 million, and the announcement adds:

“The proposed helicopter sale will be of critical value in the establishment of the Colombian Army Search and Rescue/MEDEVAC Program. Colombia has no transportation for search, rescue, or evacuating injured personnel from the battlefield. Current personnel losses in the field can be directly attributed to the lack of helicopters for search and rescue. These helicopters will help greatly in preventing loss of life now being felt because their injured personnel cannot be moved rapidly from the battlefield. Colombia, which already has UH-60 model helicopters in its inventory, will have no difficulty absorbing the MEDEVAC helicopters. The proposed sale of this equipment and support will not affect the basic military balance in the region. The prime contractor will be Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation of Stratford, Connecticut. There are no known offset agreements proposed in connection with this potential sale.”

July 22/05: 8 requested. The US DSCA announces [PDF] Colombia’s formal request to buy 8 of Sikorsky’s UH-60L Black Hawk helicopters, with engines, spare and repair parts, tools and support equipment, publications and technical data, personnel training and training equipment, and other U.S. Government and contractor support. The estimated cost is up to $100 million.

The principal contractors will be: United Technologies, Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation of Stratford, CT and General Electric of Lynn, MA. There are no known offset agreements proposed in connection with this potential sale.

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