Sweden found itself in a tricky situation at the start of this decade, when it became clear that its delayed fleet of NH90s was going to be incapable of meeting requirements in Afghanistan for some more years, and no swift solution was seen to remedying the European type’s development difficulties.
With doing nothing considered politically unacceptable, Stockholm took the bold – and expensive – step of buying an additional helicopter type, and in mid-2011 ordered 15 UH-60M Black Hawks from Sikorsky.
I recently visited Malmen air base and got an update on the locally-designated Hkp 16′s introduction to service and operational performance from Camp Marmal since its arrival in Afghanistan roughly one year ago (Swedish Armed Forces Helicopter Wing-supplied image below).
With the NATO-led mission in the country now ramping down, Sweden’s four deployed Black Hawks will be leaving the country during May, by which time they will have served there for just 13 months in the medical evacuation role. At the time of writing the article, the type had evacuated around 15 casualties, including two with combat injuries.
To some that might not seem like great value for money given the size of the investment made, but looking back to the contract signature few would have expected the campaign to be coming to and end by late 2014, and the decision has been vindicated by the NH90′s slow pace of progress.
You can also read about the latest activities with the NH90 fleet and the “International Mission” variant that I was lucky enough to fly in by signing in or registering to access it via our FG Club. You can also download it for the iPad as part of the 25 March edition of Flight International (available as a subscription, or for £3.99 per issue).