Now the Saudi Black Hawk fleet is set for dramatic expansion following the announcement of a $193.8 million firm-fixed-price foreign military sales contract for 17 UH-60Ms in January 2018.
Eight of the new UH-60Ms will go to the Saudi Arabian National Guard and nine to the Royal Saudi Land Forces Airborne Special Security Forces.
These will join the survivors of a single S-70A VIP helicopter, 12 S-70A-1 Desert Hawk utility helicopters, eight S-70A-1L medevac helicopters, eight ex-US Army UH-60As, transferred during Desert Storm, as well as about 24 UH-60Ls delivered between 2008 and 2014.
Most of these serve with the Royal Saudi Land Forces.
Between three and five S-70i International Black Hawks are assigned to the General Civil Defence Agency (GCDA) – the paramilitary wing of the Ministry of Interior. Delivered from August 2011, the S-70i helicopters augment some 16 S-92s in providing helicopter support to the kingdom’s counter-terrorism forces.
A major 2010 arms deal with the US saw the kingdom being authorised to receive 84 new-build F-15SA strike fighters (and to upgrade 72 F-15S aircraft to the same standard), and the $25 billion package also included authorisation for the purchase of large numbers of helicopters (36 AH-64E Apaches, 36 AH-6i Little Birds, and 72 Sikorsky UH-60M Black Hawks), primarily for the newly established air element of the Saudi Arabian National Guard.
By mid-2017, the Saudi Arabian National Guard operated 12 AH-64E Longbow Apaches, 24 UH-60M Black Hawks and 12 AH-6is. By then, the number of S-70s planned had grown again, with 12 MH-60R Seahawk helicopters added for the Royal Saudi Naval Forces, and with a new plan for Lockheed Martin and Saudi Arabia’s Taqnia to co-produce up to 150 S-70 Black Hawk helicopters, with final assembly taking place in the kingdom.
Deliveries were scheduled to begin in October 2017 and to conclude by the end of June, 2022.
This programme appears to have been delayed and the recent order for 17 aircraft appears to be another interim purchase, adding to about 39 aircraft ordered since 2015.
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