“The BLACK HAWK Saved Our Country”
MONCh reported earlier this week on the BLACK HAWK helicopter’s thirty years in Latin America (see https://monch.com/mpg/news/air/3086-fidae-2018-black-hawk-celebrates-30-years-of-latin-american-operations.html). Today Santiago Rivas reports from the Sikorsky press conference held at FIDAE 2018 with additional information and observations. Adam Schierholz, Sikorsky’s VP for Latin America, talked about the importance of the aircraft reaching this milestone and offered some perspective on what the future might hold for it.
“The helicopter was born from a requirement after the Vietnam war, which most companies thought was impossible to fulfil. That the BLACK HAWK fulfilled this is recognised by the [current] operators and potential ones, but our aim is that politicians and finance officials in government understand this also,” he explained. He also talked about the feedback they have had from customers, citing in particular Gen. Bueno Vargas, commander-in-chief of the Colombian Air Force, who, in referencing the active role the helicopter played in that nation’s guerrilla war, stated “the BLACK HAWK saved our country.”
With the most recent acquisition of six S-70i by the Chilean Air Force, the regional BLACK HAWK fleet will reach 180 units of all versions, of which fully one half was delivered in the past ten years.
The fleet of S-70i reaches 14 examples, (1 in Mexico, 7 in Colombia and 6 in Chile), but the company has high expectations that the Brazilian Army will decide to buy more BLACK HAWKs in the near future, to expand its fleet of the model, which currently comprises four units.
Regarding the SEAHAWK, which is currently operational in Brazil, Schierholz stated that he sees the market as being more difficult, as it is a more complex and expensive helicopter due to the systems installed. The Mexican Navy has a lot of interest in the model and Schierholz said they expect to have good news in the near future. The Colombian Navy also has interest, but is expected to settle for second hand units from the US Navy.
Sikorsky is also evaluating the possibility of adapting the less expensive BLACK HAWK to fulfil some naval operations, as the rotor blades and tail could be folded to operate on ships. The company has received a request along these lines from the Argentine Navy for Antarctic operations on the ARA ALMIRANTE IRIZAR icebreaker, on which the type would replace the older SEA KINGs.
Also in Argentina, there is great interest from the Army, a group of pilots and mechanics from the service having visited the factory to test the S-70i.
Sikorsky is also offering the BLACK HAWK to the Ecuadorian Air Force, which has an urgent requirement to modernise its helicopter force, and to the Peruvian armed forces.
Based on combat experience the company has recently developed a kit to arm the BLACK HAWK with a wide variety of weapons, which could be installed on any S-70i, and is already offered the armed BLACK HAWK for sale.