Citizens around Sarajevo have seen and heard UH-1H Huey helicopters flying in and out of their base at Rajlovac for two decades. They have flown for many reasons, always ready to help the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Whether fighting forest fires, conducting flood relief, or providing life-saving medical evacuation, the Armed Forces of Bosnia and Herzegovina have always been eager to respond.
For the Armed Forces of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Huey helicopter has been a reliable workhorse, compatible with NATO operations. While you may see more Huey’s flying across Bosnia and Herzegovina these days than Mi-8 helicopters, all are older airframes slowly approaching the end of their service lives. Bosnia and Herzegovina’s fruitful partnership with NATO provides an opportunity to modernize its helicopter fleet to be more interoperable.
Today’s signing of a Letter of Offer and Acceptance between the governments of the United States and Bosnia and Herzegovina is a significant step towards achieving this goal. It sets in motion a process that will see four new Bell Huey 2 helicopters delivered to Bosnia and Herzegovina within the next three years. The Huey 2 provides more performance at less cost, which I’m sure is of interest to the taxpayers of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and they will enable the Armed Forces to continue to provide critical life-saving support to the entire population.
This initiative is a joint project between the United States and Bosnia and Herzegovina. While the U.S. Government provided $34 million to cover most of the up-front cost, the Ministry of Defense intends to invest more than that over the next ten years to continue building this program. This is in addition to the more than $4 million the Ministry has already invested in the initial purchase. I call on the Government of Bosnia and Herzegovina to provide the Armed Forces with the resources they need to continue this and other programs in a meaningful way.
The Armed Forces of Bosnia and Herzegovina is a success story worth investing in. Many of its members served on opposite sides during the war, and now they stand side-by-side in service of their country and their people. They have formed a united force for peace and stability across the globe, and have become a trusted NATO partner for peacekeeping and countering terrorism. Simply put, the Armed Forces are a shining example of what the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina can achieve when they stand together and look towards the future. They have proven that every Pfennig invested in the Armed Forces pays enormous dividends for peace, security and the future of the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina.