Sikorsky [UTX] recently said it has expanded its support of the Colombia armed forces Black Hawk helicopter fleet by opening an office in the capital of Bogota.

Also, Sikorsky will open South America’s first Black Hawk helicopter training center in Melgar, Colombia, in early 2013.

The South American country in September said it plans to buy 10 more UH-60 Black Hawks that would be delivered next year, according to an article in Colombia Reports. The nation earlier approved a $5.7 billion increase in the military budget.

The new flight training center will have the region’s only full motion, high fidelity, FAA Level D Equivalent Black Hawk simulator, the company said in a statement. The center will provide pilot and flight crew training for the Colombian armed services and Sikorsky military customers throughout Latin America.  

The new office will employ 10 people and provide the Colombian Ministry of Defense with a central, in-country point of contact for managing all aspects of business with Sikorsky including aftermarket support, program management, and administrative requirements. Sikorsky Aerospace Services, the aftermarket business of Sikorsky Aircraft, already operates a Service Depot in Colombia.

“Colombia is a longtime strategic customer and valued partner,” said Mick Maurer, president, Sikorsky Aircraft Corp. “Our continued investments in support services exemplify Sikorsky’s solid commitment to enhance the Ministry of Defense and the Colombian Armed Forces’ fleet availability and operational readiness. We remain dedicated to providing strong support directly where our customers operate.”

Colombia purchased its first Black Hawk helicopter in 1987 when the air force procured aircraft via the U.S. government’s Foreign Military Sales (FMS) channel. Ten years later, the Colombian army acquired its own Black Hawk fleet. The National Federal Police followed suit by procuring its first six aircraft in 1999.

Currently, Colombia operates nearly 100 Black Hawk helicopters–the world’s fourth-largest Black Hawk fleet and the largest procured to date through the FMS system. These aircraft perform a variety of missions including search and rescue, medical evacuation, disaster relief, anti-drug, and counter-insurgency operations.

Earlier this year, Sikorsky announced the expansion of its existing maintenance contract that doubles the size of the in-country maintenance support team for the Colombian Army Black Hawk fleet.

Colombian Army Aviation–part of the army’s Combined Arms Team–has acquired Scheduled and Unscheduled Maintenance Services for its fleet of UH-60s to ensure sustained support for operations mandated by the Colombian army. Forty-two Sikorsky-trained technicians perform Phase Maintenance Inspections and 120-hour inspections at the Aviation Maintenance Base in Tolemaida. The contract is renewable annually.

Additionally, a team of five Sikorsky-trained technicians perform depot airframe repairs at the  base. The capability to provide in-country depot maintenance significantly minimizes operating costs and aircraft downtime by eliminating the need to transport aircraft back to Sikorsky facilities in the United States.