Greece plans on acquiring 35 UH-60M Blackhawk helicopters (Lockheed Martin)

BELFAST — Greece is a step closer to acquiring new utility helicopters after signing a Letter of Offer and Acceptance (LoA) for a fleet of 35 UH-60M Black Hawk aircraft.

Lockheed Martin announced the move by Athens on April 5, with subsidiary Sikorsky to manufacture the helicopters once a firm order has been agreed.

The LoA arrives after the US State Department approved the Foreign Military Sale, worth an estimated $1.95 billion in December 2023. In addition to the 35 rotorcraft, the overall package backed by Washington includes weapons, subsystems, spare parts and training devices.

“The latest generation UH-60M Black Hawk will support the Hellenic Ministry of Defense’s ongoing modernization and will serve as a dependable helicopter for vital national and allied security missions,” Sikorsky President Paul Lemmo is quoted as saying in the Lockheed Martin statement.

Greece will replace a mix of Bell UH-1H and Agusta-Bell AB205 helicopters with the new Black Hawks.

The US has said previously that the UH-60 deal will “improve the Hellenic Army’s ability to deploy combat power to secure Greece’s borders, deter actions against its interests, and, when required, respond with credible force.”

In 2022, the US and Sikorsky signed a 10th multiyear Black Hawk contract, over five years, worth around $2.3 billion for 120 UH-60M aircraft with an option for an additional 135 units, covering the US Army and international customers. Lemmo said in April 2023 that a last aircraft from the latest multiyear contract is expected to be delivered in 2026 and confirmed that Sikorsky has also responded to an Army “sources sought” notice for another potential UH-60 multiyear order.

The UH-60M is the US Army’s most capable version of the rotorcraft and mainly supports assault, air cavalry, and aeromedical evacuation units, according to a service factsheet.

It also notes that the M Model “has multiple upgrades over its predecessors including multimission capabilities and features a new airframe, advanced digital avionics and a powerful propulsion system that can be used to perform tactical transport, utility, search and rescue, airborne assault, command and control, medical evacuation, aerial sustainment, disaster relief and firefighting missions.”

The helicopter was expected to receive an engine upgrade from current General Electric T700-GE-701D turboshafts to more powerful T901 powerplants, but that plan was scrapped two months ago, in line with cancellation of the Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft (FARA) program.

Greek efforts to acquire modern helicopters comes as it presses forward with a “2030 Agenda” defense modernization strategy that prioritizes, above all else, bringing into service 200 Hellenic Air Force 4.5 and fifth generation fighter jets, according to the Hellenic Republic Ministry of Defence.

That plan includes a F-16 Viper upgrade effort, already in progress by Lockheed Martin and the Hellenic Aerospace Industry, which will see a total of 84 aircraft delivered to Athens by 2027 and strengthened by a $8.6 billion order for 40 F-35 fighter jets, cleared by the US State Department in January.

By contrast, naval matters are not exactly sailing along as Greece still has not awarded a production contract for an envisioned $1.6 billion corvette program more than a year after it indicated a decision was “very close.” Industry bids from Italy’s Fincantieri, offering FCx30 vessels and France’s Naval Group, pitching Gowind ships, were formally submitted in December 2022.

Greece plans on acquiring three new corvettes and holds an option for purchase of a fourth.