Leadership of the Ministry of National Defence has taken a decision to dispose of the Soviet-made Mi-8 helicopters and start negotiations on procurement of new helicopters.
The new utility helicopters are planned to be used for search and rescue operations and for the tasks of the Lithuanian Armed Forces and the NATO enhanced Forward Presence Battalion Battle Group in Lithuania.
“Currently the Lithuanian Armed Forces continues to use for its tasks three operational Soviet-made Mi-8 whose airworthiness deadline is very near, and three AS365 N3+ Dauphin helicopters that are mainly used for search and rescue operations and environmental protection surveillance in the territory of Lithuania. We have to change the remnant Mi-8 Soviet platform to a western technology for military tasks,” Minister of National Defence Raimundas Karoblis says.
He also underscores that the need of more modern western helicopters arose because the operating life of the Mi-8 will soon be over, their maintenance is expensive, constantly required, and a high-risk issue because of the complicated supply of spare parts from the Russian Federation.
A market analysis that was done according to the criteria formulated by the Lithuanian Armed Forces has revealed that the UH-60M Black Hawk utility helicopter offered by the United States of America meets the demands in the most optimal way. Therefore, it has been agreed that negotiations with the U.S. Government on procurement of six UH-60 Black Hawks will be opened in the nearest while.
The negotiations with U.S. Government concerning the helicopter procurement will begin in the nearest future, while the Letter of Offer and Acceptance is expected to be signed by the end of 2020. It is estimated that the first of the new UH-60M military utility helicopters will be delivered to the Lithuanian Armed Forces by the end of 2024.
The value of the UH-60M Black Hawk utility helicopter procurement is approximately EUR 300 million. The U.S. Government is currently exploring options to potentially provide U.S. security assistance funds to this important procurement.
“Direct acquisition of the capability from the U.S. government will supply Lithuania not only with a utility helicopter but also with a package of training, spare parts and necessary equipment. There is also a high probability that it will bring us additional financial support through the different U.S. security assistance funds,” R.Karoblis says.
The Lithuanian decision to progress to the western military helicopter platform is supported by the leadership of the Pennsylvania Army National Guard. Adjutant General of Pennsylvania Maj Gen Anthony J. Carrelli says in a letter to the Minister of National Defence of Lithuania Raimundas Karoblis that the Pennsylvania Army National Guard, bound by 26 years of close partnership with the Lithuanian Armed Forces, is prepared to render expertise , share experience, and contribute to training for crews, pilots and maintainers of the prospective acquisition.
“Our long-standing and intense cooperation with the Pennsylvania Army National Guard and its future assistance will foster a better interoperability with the U.S. forces in exercises and international operations,” Vice Minister of National Defence G. Jeglinskas says.
The United States is Lithuania’s strategic partner and key ally for the security of the Baltic region. The two countries cooperate across a range of areas, including acquisitions.
Another similar project underway and being agreed is the procurement of 200 JLTV armoured all-terrain vehicles from the U.S. Government for the Lithuanian Armed Forces. The United States, in its turn, made extensive investments to Lithuania’s military training areas and other infrastructure, training of Lithuania’s military personnel, and other areas, as part of its security assistance programs in Lithuania.
In order to ensure sustainability of the cooperation activities and proper funding of long-term projects Lithuania and the U.S. have signed a cooperation plan in the beginning of this year.