The Croatian defense ministry has welcomed the first two of overall four UH-60M Black Hawk helicopters at the Franjo Tuđman airport in Zagreb.
The helicopters arrived in the country’s capital on February 3, aboard C-17 strategic transport aircraft and were welcomed by the country’s defense minister Mario Banožić.
Croatia is buying a total of four Black Hawks, two of which will be donated by the US defense department, while two are being paid for by Croatia.
The purchase of these helicopters will significantly improve the capabilities of the Croatian Air Force and the Croatian Army as a whole, the defense ministry said.
The arrival of the Black Hawks follows the signing of a $196.4 million contract for Croatia’s purchase of second-hand Bradley M2A2 infantry fighting vehicles from the US.
“The way the helicopters were transported to Croatia is really impressive. I had the opportunity to see these helicopters during my visit to the United States in July, and I would like to take this opportunity to express my gratitude to the American side for supporting this project,” defense minister Banožić said.
The minister said the arrival of the helicopters represented a new capability, as well as a new asset to increase the degree of interoperability. “This is just one step in that process, in the transition to Western technology,” Banožić pointed out.
The Chief of the General Staff of the Croatian Armed Forces, Admiral Robert Hranj, said that the helicopters would become operational very soon. He explained that the Croatian Air Force has ready and trained pilots and technicians and that it must go through a formal handover process in which American experts will hand over the helicopters to the Croatian side.
According to the US embassy in Zagreb, the project to provide Croatia with the new Black Hawks is worth 360 million kuna (approx. $54M).
“Croatia has earned a reputation as a committed and capable NATO ally, and the introduction of Black Hawks will further boost the capacities of the Croatian Armed Forces,” US Chargé d’Affaires Mark Fleming said.
“We are working together every day to build the tools that our countries need to help ensure regional security and to support the strength of NATO more broadly.”