The Croatian air force on 3 February received its first two Sikorsky UH-60M Black Hawk helicopters, from a total of four expected to be in use by year-end.

Donated by Washington DC and delivered to Zagreb Pleso air base aboard a US Air Force Boeing C-17 strategic transport, the lead pair (with the registrations 230 and 231) were welcomed by Croatian officials including defence minister Mario Banozic and chief of staff Admiral Robert Hranj.

Croatian UH-60Ms in C-17

Source: Croatian defence ministry

Donated rotorcraft were flown to Zagreb aboard a C-17 strategic transport

Hranj estimates the donation value at some HRK360 million ($54.5 million), while the four-aircraft programme’s total value – also including associated equipment and spare parts – is worth some $153 million. Previous announcements from Zagreb had valued the total package at just over $138 million, before taxation.

Initial operational capability is expected within a few months, with a number of Croatian pilots and maintenance personnel already having completed training in the USA.

Two of Zagreb’s UH-60Ms will primarily be used at the NATO Multinational Special Aviation Programme training centre at Zadar air base.

Croatian UH-60M

Source: Croatian defence ministry

Newly acquired Black Hawks will begin replacing Zagreb’s Russian-supplied transport helicopters

The Black Hawk delivery marks the long-awaited start of the NATO nation’s transition to using all-western equipment and the gradual phasing out of its Russian-built rotorcraft. Its air force has used Mil Mi-8/17-series helicopters in the transport and support roles for the last three decades.

Zagreb also last December cemented its fighter modernisation plans, with the air force’s Mikoyan MiG-21s to be replaced a dozen by ex-French air force Dassault Rafales.