CROATIA HAS taken delivery of its first two Sikorsky UH-60M Black Hawks. The helicopters, serial numbers 230 (US FMS serial 19-27458) and 231 (FMS serial unconfirmed), arrived at Zagreb-Pleso Air Base (co-located with Zagreb's Franjo Tuđman Airport) on February 3 on board US Air Force Reserve Command C-17A Globemaster III 05-5142 operated by the 452nd Air Mobility Wing/729th Airlift Squadron at March Air Reserve Base, California.
Theses initial helicopters have both been donated to the Croatian Air Force and Air Defence by the US Government. A further two have been ordered, funded by the Croatian Department of Defence. These acquisitions form part of the country’s plans to transition to Western technology, having previously relied largely on Soviet-era hardware.
After being checked over by US technicians, the first two UH-60Ms will be formally handed over to Croatia and were expected to be ready to fly within a few weeks. Croatian pilots and technicians have already been trained on the type, but will continue with a final training phase, which will lead to an initial operating capability within two to three months. They are planned to be fully operational by the year-end.
Two of the four Black Hawks will be dedicated to supporting Special Forces operations and will undertake training for this role NATO Multinational Special Aviation Programme training center at Zadar Air Base. In addition, when not used on SF missions, they will be made available for other tasks, including transporting soldiers, combat missions and supporting civilian institutions. The other two will be used for a wide range of missions and, in addition to traditional military tasks, will assist civilian institutions in roles such as extinguishing large forest fires, search and rescue and emergency medical transport.