Philippines Set to Order 32 S-70i Black Hawk Combat Utility Helicopters

The Philippines is preparing to order 32 additional S-70i Black Hawk combat utility helicopters from Lockheed Martin-Sikorsky’s Polish subsidiary, PZL Mielec. A Notice of Award (NOA) was issued to PZL Mielec on December 28, 2021, for the PHIP32 billion ($624 million) procurement. A Contract Agreement is now being drafted, which will be followed by a Notice to Proceed officially launching the acquisition.

The Philippines previously ordered 16 S-70i Black Hawks from PZL Mielec on April 16, 2019. These were purchased to meet the Philippines Air Force (PAF) combat-utility helicopter requirement, part of a larger upgrade and modernization of its overall helicopter fleet.

Delivery of the first handful of new-build S-70i Black Hawk helicopters from PZL Mielec occurred on November 9, 2020, at Clark Air Base, just north of Manila. The delivery involved five helicopters out of the 16 ordered, with a sixth unit en route via ship arriving in the Philippines on December 2. These six units were inaugurated into service on December 10, 2020. An additional five units arrived on June 8, 2021, followed by the final five on November 8, 2021. One of these units crashed on June 23, 2021, thus reducing the total fleet to 15 helicopters.

While the new Black Hawks have performed ably in a wide variety of roles, the pandemic and natural disasters such as Typhoon Odette have reinforced the need for added modern platforms with high serviceability rates. The latter element no longer applies to the PAF’s venerable, but aging, UH-1H Huey fleet, which are increasingly expensive to maintain. Hence the latest expanded order of S-70i Black Hawks, which earlier appeared to be set at the smaller figure of 15 units following the acquisition approval signed off on by President Rodrigo Duterte on February 4, 2021.

According to Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, the plan for deliveries from this latest order will commence with five units in 2023, then 10 units in 2024, followed by 10 more units in 2025 and the remaining seven in 2026.

About Daniel Darling

Dan Darling is a senior analyst covering both the Europe and Asia-Pacific regions for Forecast International's International Military Markets group.

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