June 26, 2012: Persian Gulf state of Qatar has ordered twelve American UH-60M Blackhawk helicopters, to replace their aging British Sea Kings. The UH-60Ms would be equipped with radar and a six barrel 7.62mm machine-guns and used for coastal patrol, as well as for moving personnel and cargo.
The UH-60M features several improvements over the earlier 60L model, including new rotor blades (more reliable and provide 227 kg/500 pounds of additional lift), an all-electronic cockpit (putting all needed information on four full-color displays), an improved autopilot (which will fly the chopper if the pilot is injured and unable to), improved flight controls (making flying easier, especially in stressful situations), a stronger fuselage, more efficient navigation system, better infrared suppression (making it harder for heat seeking missiles to hit), and more powerful engines.
The oldest model, the UH-60As, will continue to serve until the last of them is retired in 2025. By then, all UH-60s will be L or M models. The last major upgrade of the Black Hawk was in the late 1980s, when the UH-60L was introduced. The M version, which will cost about $40 million each, will make the UH-60 viable into the 2020s.
Qatar is still buying European helicopters, having ordered 18 AW139 transport helicopters, for about $22 million each, four years ago. This eight ton chopper can carry up to 15 passengers and can get by with just one pilot. Cruise speed is 288 kilometers an hour and endurance averages 3.2 hours. The AW149, a military version of the AW139, will be available in four years. The AW139 competes with the U.S. UH-60 and another European helicopter, the slightly larger NH90. The Qataris have seen a lot of UH-60s in the past decade because of an agreement that allows some American troops to be based in Qatar.