The Albanian air force has taken delivery of its first two Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawks, as Tirana details plans to grow its fleet of the type to six examples.

The utility helicopters were transferred to Farka air base after arriving in Tirana on 13 January aboard a US Air Force Boeing C-17 strategic transport. They carry the service registrations FA-666 and FA-690.

“It’s just the beginning,” says defence minister Niko Peleshi, who notes that 2024 marks the 15th anniversary of Albania joining NATO. “We are in talks for two more in the medium term and by 2030 we hope that Albania will have a fleet of six Black Hawk helicopters.”

Albanian air force Black Hawk

Source: Albanian defence ministry

Tirana has acquired its ex-US Army Black Hawks via a US military aid package

The air force’s lead assets are ex-US Army UH-60As, which Washington had in 2019 pledged to transfer to Tirana. Albania’s defence ministry says the two-aircraft acquisition has been supported by over $50 million in US funding, supported by its own investment.

The deal also includes support and maintenance, technical assistance and US-based training for eight pilots, the defence ministry says. Two new hangars also are in construction at the base, with work to be completed this year.

“The new helicopters will help strengthen the capabilities of the Albanian air force and the ability to carry out medical evacuation, personnel recovery and search and rescue missions, as well as supporting NATO logistical movements for operations and training,” the defence ministry says.

Detailing the expanded acquisition plan, Peleshi says Albania aspires to meet NATO’s target for member nations to spend at least 2% of their GDP on defence each year. Figures released by the alliance in July 2023 detailed the Balkan nation’s likely allocation for the year at around 1.76%.

Additional reporting by Igor Bozinovski