PARIS — An armed, Polish-built S-70i Black Hawk helicopter is making its European debut at Poland's largest national military exercise Anakonda this week.
The helicopter that will be a part of a static display at Poland’s largest training site in Drawsko Pomorskie during the last few days of the two-week exercise is intended to show how an future armed Black Hawk could look like to meet missions anticipated now and in the future.
PZL Mielec, a company owned by Sikorsky, that builds Black Hawks in Poland, produced the representative version of the armed Black Hawk designed by Sikorksy and its new owner Lockheed Martin.
Many configurations of Black Hawks owned by a wide variety of countries, including the United States, Colombia and Israel, are armed. But Sikorksy itself has never developed an armed Black Hawk, Joel Villa, the company's regional director for helicopters in central and Eastern European countries, told Defense News Wednesday at Eurosatory, a large land warfare conference.
When Sikorsky was owned by United Technologies Corporation, "there was a policy when part of [UTC] that prevented Sikorsky from internally arming a Black Hawk," Villa said. "That has since gone away."
Lockheed Martin bought Sikorsky from UTC last year.
And while Sikorsky could not arm Black Hawks, Lockheed Martin has, for example, done integration work to weaponize Sea Hawks, the US Navy's version of the helicopter.
Now that Sikorsky and Lockheed are one in the same, each company brings experience that will move the dial toward a more seamless process to arm Black Hawks.
"Now we can be a one-stop shop," Villa added.
Sikorsky and Lockheed are working together on several versions of an armed Black Hawk. The Black Hawk on display in Poland is just one possible configuration designed by the team, according to Villa.
Villa emphasized the configurations are weapons agnostic and in the case of Poland, it was likely armed with NATO standard weapons like Lockheed's Hellfire missile. "It's supposed to be a representation of what can be done. To even get into what's on it right now is immaterial. That we can do it is what is being highlighted," he added.
The display in Poland marks the first time Sikorsky and Lockheed have debuted an armed Black Hawk concept. The same helicopter will make another European cameo at the Farnborough Air Show in England next month.
Sikorsky and Lockheed Martin see a promising market for armed Black Hawks in the region. "The entire region right now is in need of helicopters because of the aging Russian fleet," Villa said. "The majority of these former Warsaw Pact countries fly Mi-24s, which is, essentially, an armed small utility aircraft so the countries in the region are looking to fill that gap that is being opened up."
Additionally, there are countries that may want a utility aircraft and an armed aircraft but, don't have the budget to buy two exclusive platforms for a utility and attack helicopter. Sikorsky sees an armed Black Hawk as a good solution to meet those requirements within smaller budgets.
Jen Judson is an award-winning journalist covering land warfare for Defense News. She has also worked for Politico and Inside Defense. She holds a Master of Science degree in journalism from Boston University and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Kenyon College.