Sweden's Defence Materiel Administration is in final negotiations to buy 15 Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk utility helicopters from the US government, with first deliveries expected early next year.

Defence minister Sten Tolgfors says pilot training should start in the USA "this summer", and that the entire fleet would be fully operational by 2017.

The Black Hawk acquisition will double Sweden's medium helicopter inventory, strengthening its ability to contribute to international defence and security operations, Tolgfors says. Its Defence Forces Helicopter Wing is likely to deploy the new aircraft to Afghanistan "from 2013", replacing deployed Eurocopter AS332 Cougars, he adds.

Buying UH-60s has become necessary due to ongoing problems with the introduction of Sweden's NH Industries NH90 transports. An 18-unit order was signed in 2001, and Stockholm has so far received seven aircraft to support test activities, Flightglobal's HeliCAS database says. According to Tolgfors, the delayed type is now expected to become fully operational only in 2020.

Sweden's government says the Black Hawk acquisition is expected to value up to SKr4.7 billion ($772 million), including training services, through-life operating costs and maintenance support.

Source: Flight International