Lockheed Martin and Sikorsky hosted a media roundtable at EXPODEFENSA in Bogota on 3 December, providing an opportunity to ask questions of the company executives responsible for major programmes and business development in Latin America.
John Lopes, Business Development Director for Latin America, reminded all present of the significant role played by Lockheed Martin’s C-130 in the region, functioning as a rescue plane during the devastating floods and mudslides in Peru, as a firefighter during Brazil’s Amazon fire, and as a tireless supporter of Antarctic operations. He also highlighted Lockheed Martin’s assistance with and contributions to MORELOS III, a Mexican communications satellite launched in October 2015.
Adam Schierholz, Regional Executive for Latin America, highlighted the depot-level maintenance facilities in Colombia originally developed to service the needs of the local fleet, which can now be used by other regional BLACK HAWK helicopter. The installations provide the manpower, expertise and capacity for depot-level support to those BLACK HAWKs in service in Brazil, Argentina and Chile, as well as any new regional client. The depot offers a 3,250 sq m hangar at the Colombian Army Aviation facility at Tolemaida Base, with 28 highly trained technicians. He also mentioned these technicians have returned to service a BLACK HAWK damaged when landing on a mine. The machine was actually able to lift off with its cargo after the explosion, a testament to the power of the helicopter.
The Colombian Army, Air Force and National Police have acquired 103 BLACK HAWKs since 1988 and some 96 of them are still operating. Mexico acquired 48, while a couple of dozen are operated by Brazil and Chile. Sikorsky opened a full support office in Bogota in 2012, following this with establishment of a helicopter training centre in Melgar, which became a reality as part of an offset programme established in 2008, when Colombia purchased eight BLACK HAWKs. The complex features an advanced and full-motion flight simulator that can be used to train pilots from other countries. The idea developed from an exchange between Brazil and Colombia and today the centre is available to provide training for the Colombian armed forces as well as other BLACK HAWK operator throughout Latin America. The simulator is the only one of its kind outside the US.
Other executives participating in the roundtable included David Johnson and Martin Teft, who highlighted the CMS 330, a combat management system being installed on the Chilean Type-23 vessel. The CMS 330 was developed as a modern, affordable solution for mid-life upgrades.