An UH-60M Black Hawk with the optional wings for external payload (Image © US Army)

Heavy build-up of Saudi ground support air assets

An UH-60M Black Hawk with the optional wings for external payload (Image © US Army)
An UH-60M Black Hawk with the optional wings for external payload (Image © US Army)

Sikorsky has been awarded a $105,300,000 modification program to heavily modify 8 UH-60M Black Hawk Helicopters for the Saudi Arabian National Guard (SANG), the US Department of Defence announced on 23 December 2013. The modification order is being run through the US Army and is part of a huge build-up of Saudi air assets.

The SANG Black Hawks will get upgraded avionics and systems, plus outer wings for external payloads such as fuel pods to enlarge  the effective range of the helicopters. The last of eight machines is planned to be ready at the latest in March 2016.

If US Congress allows it Saudi Arabia will get more than 200 new helicopters over the next few years for the Royal Saudi Land Forces (RSLF), the Saudi Arabian National Guard and the Saudi Royal Guard. They include 72 UH-60Ms tactical transport and 12 MD 530F light attack choppers.

Moreover, Riyaad wants 82 AH-64E Apache Guardians which are by far the most advanced Western made attack helicopters. Of these Apaches, 36 are destined for the SANG, 10 for the Royal Guard which is the protector of the Royal Family and the spearhead in counter-terrorism operations.

Saudi Arabia will be the launch export customer for the Boeing AH-6i with 36 of these special forces newest Little Birds requested for the RSLF.

Meanwhile negotiations continue on the economic ramifications of the 72 Eurofighter Typhoon multirole fighters the Royal Saudi Air Force is planned to operate.

© 2013 AIRheads’ Marcel Burger