Military Capabilities

Military helicopter manufacturers improve airworthiness in Amazon region

19 March 2019

One of four Sikorsky S-70A (UH-60L equivalent) Black Hawk helicopters being used by Brazil’s army. The aircraft have been operational with the 4th Battalion in Manaus since 1997. Source: Sikorsky

Key Points

  • Sikorsky and Helibras have created new ways to improve airworthiness rates in the Amazon
  • These include improved contracting methods and quick-change assembly modules

Military helicopter manufacturers Sikorsky and Helibras have developed new ways to improve airworthiness rates in the Amazon rainforest region, one of the most environmentally challenging areas for rotorcraft to operate.

General Douglas Bassoli, director of Army Aviation Material Directorate, Brazilian Army (Exército Brasileiro), said the army's Sikorsky S-70A Black Hawks are used to transport assault troops and for light jungle infantry and special forces in the Amazon. The Black Hawks also perform medical evacuation and resupply missions for border platoons.

The Brazilian Army's 4th Battalion, based in Manaus, which is Amazon's largest city and in the middle of the region, 1,500 km from the Atlantic Ocean, operates four S-70A (UH-60L equivalent) Black Hawks. According to Jane's Sentinel Security Assessment: South America , the 4th Battalion also operates Helibras AS 532 Cougar and Eurocopter AS 365K Panther aircraft. Gen Bassoli said the army plans, budget permitting, to put 500-600 hours on the Black Hawk fleet annually.

Sikorsky has a major presence in the Amazon. Brazil operates 26 Black Hawks - 16 air force, 4 army, and 6 navy S-70B Sea Hawks - while the other Amazon user, Colombia, operates 97 Black Hawks across the army, air force, and national police. Adam Schierholz, Sikorsky's Latin America regional executive, told Jane's in February that the Brazilian Army improved its Black Hawk utilisation rate from 50-60% to 100% over the last few years due to spare parts initiatives, a logistics support agreement, multiyear contracting, and earlier ordering.

The Brazilian Army and Sikorsky made a concerted effort in 2016 to work more closely together. Schierholz said Sikorsky and the army created a logistics support agreement, an open contract negotiated ahead of time with a maximum value.

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