THE UNITED States has offered to broker the sale of Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk military helicopters to Slovakia via the U.S. Foreign Military Sales (FMS) fund. The price for the first nine should not exceed €300 million with training and maintenance and analysts say the deal is likely to go forward.
“The purchase of helicopters is really important for Slovak Armed Forces and it is right that older Russian Mi-17s will be replaced by modern multifunctional machines,” Central European Policy Institute (CEPI) analyst Jaroslav Naď told The Slovak Spectator.
Defence Minister Martin Glváč plans to inform the Security Council, Government and the Parliamentary Defence Committee about the offer by the end of the month, he told the press on January 12.
“There’s an offer to purchase Sikorsky Black Hawk helicopters according to requirements we’ve arrived at based on a feasibility study, the planned development of Air Force and past bilateral talks attended by experts from both countries,” Glváč said. “If purchased via the US fund accepted in the EU, the deal would guarantee a lower price than the manufacturer would otherwise give to any other client.”
According to Chief of the General Staff Milan Maxim, such a procurement would make Slovak army interoperable with NATO allies and mean lower operational costs.
Glváč underlined that it is only an offer at this stage, with other options still on the table. The replacement is slated to occur within six years, with nine new machines purchased in the first phase and the rest to be purchased and delivered gradually.
The final price is still unclear since Slovak army needs approximately 18 helicopters and the public knows only about price for the first nine of them. Another question is how the country will pay for them since Defence Ministry has insufficient funds, Róbert Ondrejcsák, director of the non-governmental think tank Centre for European and North Atlantic Affairs (CENAA) told The Slovak Spectator.
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US Ambassador to Slovakia Theodore Sedgwick told the press that the FMS is automatically available to each NATO member, and is the mechanism by which the U.S. government provides procurements of military hardware and equipment to other countries.
“This allows Slovakia and other countries to buy military hardware under the same conditions enjoyed by our armed forces,” Sedgwick said, as quoted by TASR. “Seeing as we buy large amounts, we’re receiving large discounts.”
Former defence minister Ľubomír Galko of Freedom and Solidarity (SaS) stressed that even though the FMS programme is transparent its disadvantage is that there will be no public competition seeking for the lowest possible price.
“I consider the price €33 million for one helicopter as too expensive,” Galko told The Slovak Spectator
He added that he needs to know more details about the purchase to be sure abut that. However, the basic price for this type of helicopter is generally lower, he said.
Naď opined that €300 million for nine Black Hawks with training and logistic is adequate price. However, he compared them to luxury cars asked whether Slovakia needs such machines of such high quality.
“I am convinced that we should use helicopters in operations outside the Slovak territory therefore the Black Hawk is good choice despite it is expensive,” Naď told The Slovak Spectator.
These multifunctional helicopters are capable of performing a wide range of tasks: from the transport of people within Slovakia to fulfilling of international obligations and providing air search or rescue service. They also assist when fighting with forest fires, the floods or in searching for missing persons.
Those helicopters, which Slovakia currently possesses, have been deployed also in foreign missions in Kosovo and in Bosnia and Herzegovina, according to the Defence Ministry.
16. Jan 2015 at 7:00 | Roman Cuprik