VILNIUS – A helicopter hangar for storage and maintenance was opened at the Lithuanian army's Air Force Base in Siauliai, northern Lithuania, on Tuesday, the Defense Ministry said.
It is adapted for Black Hawk helicopters Lithuania is buying. They should be delivered next year.
"It will be meant for the helicopters already in service, but we are mostly looking at the fact that new equipment is coming in, which requires more modern conditions," Colonel Antanas Matutis, commander of the Air Force, said at the opening ceremony.
For his part, Defense Minister Arvydas Anusauskas said the new infrastructure was also important incoming allies to strengthen the NATO air policing mission in the Baltic states and implement the rotational air defense model.
"The development of the military infrastructure at the Air Base is of particular relevance for strengthening our country's security and deterrence. The development of military infrastructure here is one of the key long-term priorities not only for the Lithuanian Armed Forces, but also for NATO," Anusauskas said.
The new hangar is designed for the storage and maintenance of UH-60M Black Hawk helicopters, with the first two due to arrive in Lithuania in 2025 and two more in 2026.
Last year, two pilots and ten technicians were trained to operate and maintain this type of helicopter, and this year eight more pilots and the same number of technicians are planned to be trained.
Lithuania acquired the UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters in 2020 and the helicopters are currently being upgraded at a modification plant in Huntsville, Alabama.
The construction of the new hangar cost around 3.6 million euros. The Defense Ministry says there are plans to invest over 166 million euros into infrastructure development at the Air Base by 2028, of which around 50 million euros will be provided by NATO.
According to the minister, the Air Base may be adapted for combat air units in the future.
"I am convinced that Lithuanian aviation must expand. It all depends on resources. … In any case, Lithuanian aviation has to expand, it has to meet the requirements dictated by the legislation and the geopolitical situation," Anusauskas said. "We cannot be weak, we have to have good forces and additional capabilities."
Between 2023 and 2024, investments into the Air Base infrastructure will amount to around 66 million euros, of which around 60 percent will come from the NATO Security Investment Program.