Knowing the Details About the S70i Black Hawk Combat Utility Helicopter

The Philippine Air Force chooses this asset for its Combat Utility Helicopter Project intended to augment both the UH-1 helicopter and the Bell 412 helicopters that are still in service up to the present day. This is a welcoming development in terms of airlifting capabilities of the organization, given that these assets provide a significant leap in terms of capacity wherein the number of troops, munition, or even relief goods defines the attainment of objectives in a battlefield or in other areas of concern.

From Bell 412s, then to KUH-1 Surions and now to this. It remains to be
seen if this pushes through.
Source: YouTube - channel
The recent current events to how the Black Hawk Helicopter was chosen as the main platform for the Combat Utility Helicopter project points to this article that is related to the issue involving Turkish Atak T129 Helicopters which is also the best bet of the Philippine Air Force in the Attack Helicopter Category.

This was announced by no other than Defense Secretary Mr. Delfin Lorenzana in which it was in line with the recommendations given by the Air Force's Technical Working Group. It is worthy to take note that the Government rejected the Bell 412s when the Canadian side opted to review the deal, citing potential human rights concerns that may inflict through the use of these helicopters as far as their point of view is concerned. If this is to push through, it may be a nice blessing in disguise given that these helicopters may provide significant capabilities that the Philippine Air Force obtain with the UH-1s and previously delivered Bell 412s at present. Originally offered at ten units, the supplier provides the sweet liner of the deal by increasing the offer from ten units up to 16 units (in the same number as Bell 412s), while retaining the proposed contract price which at the process, decreases the prices per unit for the rotary platform. This gain definitely helps the organization perform its mandate better in a way that it is done efficiently and effectively where troops, equipment, and support goods will be delivered in a greater capacity, enhancing the logistics chain of the Armed Forces to the new heights.

Hence, it is worthy to understand more about this deal especially with the platform chosen by the Technical Working Group for the Combat Utility Helicopter project, given that this platform provides a big leap for the Philippine Air Force which is worth commendable in terms for protecting the nation.

Sikorsky is a Helicopter supplier, a division under Lockheed Martin,
A company that produces fixed-wing aircraft. 
Photo source.
The S-70 Blackhawk Helicopters are being produced by Sikorsky which is one of the manufacturers of helicopters in the United States, alongside Bell Textron which produces UH-1 Huey Helicopters and Bell 412 Helicopters that both the Philippine Air Force presently obtains.

Sikorsky was bought by Lockheed Martin in November 2015, adding helicopter production on its own portfolio of producing fix-wing aircraft such as the notable F-16 wherein its production rights were bought from General Dynamics way back two decades ago when Lockheed and Martin Marietta merged together as a company.

This company was started by a Russian emigre Igor Sikorsky way back 1920s where he invents the machine that will revolutionize air travel. His aspiration for aviation started in Imperial Russia where he invented, built, and flew some of his works before his immigration to the United States to escape the ravaging country as the result of the Russian Civil War (Union of Soviet Socialist Republics or the USSR will come into inception years later). 

His company started with the production of biplanes such as the Sikorsky S-29A aircraft up until the production of what it will be the first mass-produced helicopter of the time which is the Sikorsky R-4 "Hoverfly" dual-seat helicopter. Derived from the Vought-Sikorsky VS-300 design, it became the primary design of a practical helicopter that still in use at present, using the familiar main and tail rotor designs

Since the R-4, Sikorsky focuses more on helicopter production, which provides several variants that help both the civilian and military organizations in the United States, as well as overseas, perform better in a way that airlifting gets more revolutionized based on the original design that Igor invented. 

To connect to the discussion matter about the deal with regards to the Lockheed Martin-Sikorsky's offer to the Philippine Air Force such as the Blackhawk helicopters, they purchased a then Polish state manufacturing company PZL Mielec way back year 2007 which now, being a Sikorsky subsidiary, primarily produces the S-70i which is an export variant of the renowned UH-60/S-70 Blackhawk helicopter. 

The Polish factory is the largest Lockheed Martin production plant outside the United States. This is not to confuse with PZL Swidnik which is a subsidiary of Leonardo Helicopters, also situated in Poland (the one that produces PZL Sokol Helicopters, with the latest statistic of 3 accidents for the Philippine Air Force since its commission).

The deal will further help Sikorsky embed itself deeper into the Philippine military aerospace market, getting a portion of the share from a dominant Bell Textron and Leonardo supply chain in which their helicopters comprise the portion of the Philippine Air Force helicopter inventory. 

From knowing the supplier and its overseas subsidiary, let us discuss in details about the product that this company offers as well as the technical attributes and other factors which may have led to this decision made by the Philippine Air Force Technical Working Group alongside the decision they made for ATAK T-129 of Turkish Aerospace Industries for the Attack Helicopter category where these are a big boost in terms of improving the capability of mobilization and logistics as well as for the performance of troop deployment, close air support, and transport mechanisms.

The latest variant of the Blackhawk series, the export-oriented
S-70i variant of PZL Mielec Poland, a Sikorsky subsidiary.
The development of Blackhawk helicopters traced back to the 70s, where Sikorsky and other aspiring suppliers at that time competed for the U.S. Army's Utility Tactical Transport Aircraft Systems Program or simply abbreviated as UTTAS which calls for a replacement for its primarily-consisted UH-1 series at that time.

Since its development, Sikorsky produces several variants of these Blackhawks catered for both civilian and military clients, inside and outside the Continental United States. This includes actually the Philippine military wherein they acquire around one or two of these platforms for the 250th Presidential Airlift Wing of the Philippine Air Force and later, converted to Search and Rescue purposes. 

The one that is presently on the procurement process in which Lockheed Martin-Sikorsky offers may come in a way of Polish-made S-70i or "International Version". This PZL Mielec production is the export-purpose, military-based Blackhawks which is still being produced up to the present day. 

The version produced is different from the ones that are being operated by the United States in all of its branches where they operate respective variants of the Blackhawk for their own use. Such helicopter obtains both a larger airframe and engine than its Bell 412 peers where, aside from being capable to carry more numbers than the ones in PAF service, it is expected to be more expensive to operate given that its powerful engine connotes greater fuel intake. 

Just to take note, Sikorsky's project competitor Korean Aerospace Industries or KAI which is the one who produced a squadron of FA-50PH for the Philippine Air Force and the one who offers KUH-1 Surion Helicopters under the project acknowledges the act of Lockheed Martin-Sikorsky to the Combat Utility Helicopter Project as "Price Dumping", making it ideal for the Philippine Air Force - Technical Working Group and seconded by the Department of National Defense to prefer the Blackhawk as the product appropriate to the project.

Originally, the offer only includes 10 Blackhawks which in the same number as what KAI offered for their Surions but Sikorsky's offer was increased to 16 which makes it as enticing as ever despite that the more cost-effective Bell 412s are in place given that is also being offered at that same number of units. With a competitor acknowledges it and they are seemingly unable to counter the offer, the deal in itself is enticing enough that it is simply that irresistible.

The specifications may get as similar to the UH-60 at a certain degree such as the design in the airframe, but this variant may go as basic as possible with additional capability upgrades and add-ons may come in later. For more details about the specifications, performance, and other technical details, we may refer to this pdf file here.

So, with the offer that the manufacturer has on a helicopter that is more powerful and more capable to carry loads than the ones present in the inventory, this is an opportunity that is simply cannot be ignored nor disregard. Now, let us provide the topic for the existing S-70 Blackhawk helicopter in the Philippine Air Force fleet of aircraft.

Before the S-70i Blackhawk offer, the Air Force already obtains
such helicopters, once with 250th PAW carrying Presidential Detail.
Credits to its intended owner.
Before this announcement was made by both the Philippine Air Force Technical Working Group and the Department of National Defense through Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, the organization already obtains its own Sikorsky Blackhawk in a form of S-70A variant.

According to this webpage of the Presidential Museum and Library on Presidential Planes, the Armed Forces of the Philippines obtained this chopper way back March 1984 under the United States Foreign Military Sale where in turn used by the Air Force for its Presidential Purposes. 

The said sets of the helicopter were used from Marcos administration until the previous Aquino III administration where the present administration decided to transfer these platforms to the 505th Search and Rescue Group

Apparently, with regards to the purchase of these helicopters, the Philippine Air Force originally obtain two units of S-70A Blackhawks for Presidential Purposes until it was lowered to one given that the other pair crashed and was written off in 1992. This puts for the organization to operate only a single unit of S-70A ever since, not until the new S-70i Black Hawk deal under the Combat Utility Helicopter Project gets a go signal to proceed and having its contract signed and sealed which it helps improve this single unit in terms of operations in line with search and rescue service. 

The background history of operating Blackhawks from the 250th Airlift Wing to the 505th Search and Rescue Group of the Philippine Air Force provides the reference for its personnel in flying this asset wherein additional units of it may get simpler given that there is already a similar platform in place to somewhat familiarize its technical mechanics that will make it fly.

At present, this lone S-70A is with the 505th Search and Rescue Group.
Courtesy to Pinoy Aviators Facebook Page.
The Philippine Air Force is on the path of obtaining these S-70i Sikorsky helicopters from Poland. This was further confirmed by Polish Media Rzeczpospolita where their report emphasizes its benefits for local workers in PZL Mielic, in the same way, the Philippines benefit for these helicopters.

This interesting development is for the defense community to keep tabs along with the ATAK T129 Attack Helicopters of Turkish Defense Industries or TAI and the Multirole Fighter Program wherein both Lockheed Martin and SAAB is fighting a close fight together with their products the F-16V Block 70/72 and the JAS-39 Gripen Block C/D. At this period where the Second Horizon of the Revised AFP Modernization Program is in effect, the series of projects of the Philippine Air Force is somewhat interesting given that these platforms, to each their own, will help provide the necessary capabilities for the organization to improve further in a way that their mandate will be performed and deliver especially in combat where Close Air Support and Air Mobility Supply Chain are a necessity that pushes a certain war effort or mission to the point that it puts the government and its forces to the advantage.

Hence, with the announcement in place with regards to the Combat Utility Helicopter Project and having this helicopter platform as its reference, all that it remains to be seen is the issuance of Notice to Proceed followed by the signing of the contract that makes the delivery binding. Time will come, once these things are in place, there will be a moment to see these new Blackhawk helicopters from Poland, proudly showing the Philippine Air Force roundel which boosts the morale of the military personnel.

Pitz Defense Analysis Note: For providing comparisons and in-depth details with regards to S-70i Blackhawks and Bell 412s, it will be discussed on a separate entry in which its scope covers more on the Combat Utility Helicopter Project in its entirety. Please keep tabs with this website once this entry gets available. Thank you.

UPDATES AS OF JUNE 5, 2019's Frances Mangosing on her Twitter account posted an update regarding the delivery dates of the S-70i Black Hawk helicopters from Poland.

From here, the prospective dates for the delivery of the Black Hawks ranges from 3Q 2020 for the first eight (8) batches of the helicopters purchased while the remainder will be delivered by 2021. However, there is a possibility that earlier deliveries may take place so as depending on the production line movements in PZL Mielec in Poland where the Philippine Air Force may obtain them at an earlier date from then. 

From here, it confirmed that the Sikorsky bagged the contract and they are the ones who will supply the Combat Utility Helicopters for the Philippine Air Force use. Hence, this is a welcoming development of its own wherein a year or two from now, we can witness these units as a big plus on the capabilities of the Air Force when it comes to the deployment of the troops and equipment to the areas when things are badly needed the most.


Unknown said...

What is the status on the Mi17 choppers. Are they really ordering it or just lip servicing.

Unknown said...

Just lip servicing. They are afraid if CAATSA. although if Duterte insist on it mayybe a few for heavy lift and troop transport. And disater relief. Its all up to Duterte.

Unknown said...

hello sir.. im doing a research on the s70i this time.. can you please direct me in some related articles that i can check.. tyvm sir!

Pitz Orpiano said...

Hello there Unknown commenter, kindly check the links provided across this article highlighted in red which may lead you to the references needed for your research.

Pitz Orpiano said...

It has just awarded for the Philippine Air Force Heavy Lift Helicopter Project.

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