Croatia’s foreign military sales (FMS) request to purchase eight UH-60M Black Hawks, approved by the US State Department on 26 January 2024, will strengthen the Balkan Army and by extension the Nato military alliance.

Under this particular FMS deal, the Croatian Ministry of Defence (MoD) explained that the value of the contract will be significantly less than the estimated $500m, which is the highest possible estimated value. Half of the amount will be borne by the US Government and half by the Republic of Croatia.

This contract builds on previous attempts to bring the Black Hawk to the Croatian Armed Forces. First, the US donated two units in December 2018. This was closely followed by a $115m deal for two Black Hawks ordered in 2019 – these units were delivered on 4 February 2022.

UH-60M has helped the Croatian Armed Forces’ capability to provide troop lift, border security and counterterrorism, medical evacuation, search and rescue and combat support.

Two UH-60M Black Hawk helicopters were loaded and transported to Croatia on 4 February 2022. The delivery was part of the 2018 Croatia Vertical Lift programme and will increase the country’s defence capabilities and military preparedness in support of Nato. Credit: DVIDS.

Now, the Defense Security Co-operation Agency stated that this new proposal for wight additional units will support the Army. It will improve the Balkan nation’s ability to “deter current and future threats and support coalition operations as well as promote interoperability with the US and other Nato forces.”

Sikorsky, a Lockheed Martin subsidiary, will manufcature and deliver the fleet from Stratford, Connecticut. There are no known offset agreements in connection with this potential sale.

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Implementation of this FMS agreement will require approximately 15 US Government and/or 15 contractor representatives to travel to Croatia for an extended period for equipment de-processing/fielding, system checkout, training, and technical and logistics support.

Under this agrrangement, Croatia will also benefit from 19 General Electric Aerospace T700 701D engines (16 installed, 3 spares); 20 AN/ARC-231A RT-1987 very high frequency/ultra high frequency/Line of Sight Satellite Communications radios; ten AN/AAR-57 Counter Missile Warning Systems; 20 H-764U Embedded GPS with Inertial Navigation (EGI) and Selective Availability Anti-Spoofing Module (or future replacement); and 18 M240H machine guns, among a host of other supplementary equipment.

Modernising the Croatian Army

More than 2,000 UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter variants are in service with the US, and more than 600 have been exported.

The platform has logged over four million flying hours, having proven itsself in a diverse range of combat missions in Grenada and Panama in the 1980s; the liberation of Kuwait in 1991; Somalia, Afghanistan, Iraq and numerous humanitarian and rescue missions including operations in Bosnia since the 2000s.

“Namely, the purchase of Black Hawk helicopters is part of the effort for Croatia to replace Soviet military technology with Western technology,” according to a statement from the Ministry of Defence.

According to the leading intelligence consultancy GlobalData, in a report entitled: Croatia Defence Market, 2022-2027, besides the UH-60Ms, the nation’s air force currently operates eight Bell 206-B3 helicopters, acquired in 1996-7; ten Mil Mi 8s, purchased between 1993 and 2006; and 16 Bell OH-58 units procured in 2016.

While a fleet of 12 Black Hawks, powered by T700 engines, are a considerable capability upgrade to what the nation is used to, it should be noted that last year the US Department of Defence received its first two T901 engines.

This new engine will power all US rotorcraft, including UH-60 Black Hawks, AH-60 Apache attack helicopters and the Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft programme.