Sikorsky accelerates UH-60M deliveries, launches Sweden’s wider helicopter modernisation

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Sweden's armed forces have started accepting Sikorsky UH-60Ms on an accelerated basis, to support a 2013 deployment to Afghanistan and launch a wider modernisation of the country's military helicopter wing.

US-based Sikorsky now plans to deliver all 15 UH-60Ms before three of the utility helicopters are deployed with Swedish forces to Afghanistan in less than 15 months, said Parik Dovskog, head of the helicopter systems office at the Swedish defence materiel administration (FMV).

The accelerated deliveries will not affect Sweden's other major helicopter acquisition of NH Industries NH90s, Dovskog said.

Deliveries of the country's 18 NH90s on order will start in the second half of next year, as scheduled, Dovskog added. Sweden is buying 13 land-based NH90s for troop transportation and five sea-based NH90s for maritime use.

It is not clear yet, however, how the acquisition of the UH-60Ms will affect Sweden's plans for the future of its existing fleet of 10 Eurocopter EC225 Super Puma helicopters.

The three UH-60Ms deploying to Afghanistan will be configured for the medical evacuation of combat troops, Dovskog said. Medical evacuation is also the mission of three of the Super Pumas, but these will not join Sweden's deployment to Afghanistan.

At the moment, all 10 of Sweden's Super Pumas are receiving an avionics upgrade, Dovskog added. A long-term plan to either upgrade the 10 Super Pumas or replace them with a newer aircraft has not been decided.

That decision is scheduled to be made after the FMV accepts all 15 UH-60Ms and 18 NH90s over the next few years.

Sikorsky is now scheduled to deliver the last UH-60M to Sweden in October 2012, said John Pacelli, vice-president of Sikorsky international military business.

The first UH-60M was delivered to Sweden in September - four months after the contract was signed in May. The accelerated deliveries were authorised by the US Army, which agreed to move up Sweden's orders in Sikorsky's production line, he said.