Lithuania lags behind in training Black Hawks personnel

Lithuania’s Ministry of National Defense (MNoD) is investing in its rotorcraft ecosystem in preparation for the introduction of future UH-60M Black Hawk helicopters.

In the opening the new facility in Šiauliai, in the north of the country, on January 9, 2024, the Minister of National Defense, Arvydas Anusauskas, said: “More and more allies are coming to Lithuania. NATO’s air police mission in the Baltic countries is being strengthened, we are ambitious to implement the rotational air defense model together with the allies.”

In November 2020, the Baltic nation secured a contract with the US Department of Defense acquiring four units at a cost of 181 million euros ($213 million). The US also offered an option for two more units in the future if needed.

The UH-60M is the latest variant of the Black Hawk family of multi-role helicopters manufactured in the 1970s by Sikorsky, now Lockheed Martin subsidiary. There are more than 2,000 Black Hawk variants in US service and more than 600 have been exported.

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Black Hawk helicopters performed a wide range of combat missions from Grenada and Panama in the 1980s, to the liberation of Kuwait, Somalia, Afghanistan, Iraq thereafter, as well as many humanitarian and rescue missions, including operations in Bosnia.

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Towards the end of 2023, the US government announced that it would begin using General Electricthe latest T901 engine – and an upgrade from the Black Hawk’s previous T700 engine, which has been used to power the Lean and Black Hawk over the past 40 years. The former provides 50% more power and reduced life cycles. Whether this will power Lithuania’s upcoming helicopters remains to be seen.

Lithuania’s growing rotor ecosystem

The Lithuanian government expects its first two units to arrive in 2025 and two more in 2026.

Although, in 2020, the ministry predicted an estimated delivery time of late 2024. This depended on its armed forces having fully trained personnel – pilots and ground support specialists – to work with the new platform and ready maintenance and ground support equipment.

Instead, opening the new installation indicates that this has just been achieved.

Similarly, in 2023, two pilots and ten technicians were trained to operate and provide technical service for this type of helicopter, and this year the government plans to train another eight pilots and eight technicians.

The US Armythe lead Black Hawk operator, gives a sense of the prerequisite training that Lithuanian technicians will similarly undergo.

“While [Black Hawk] The maintainers are extremely knowledgeable in their field, having undergone 15 weeks of advanced individual training followed by in-depth on-the-job training, even the most experienced maintainers are still learning about their helicopters.”

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