UH-60 Blackhawk

Sikorsky entered its S-70 into the U. S. Army UTTAS competition and eventually won a contract to produce the Army’s new combat assault helicopter. In the midst of developing the new aircraft, on May 1, 1974, Sikorsky Aircraft became a division of the newly established United Technologies Corporation. Designed to carry a crew of three and a fully equipped eleven-man U. S. infantry squad, the UH-60A Blackhawk emerged the winner of a rigorous evaluation and intensive seven-month fly-off in December 1976. The Army intended to order more than 1,100 UH-60s as troop and cargo transport, medevac (with four litters), reconnaissance, and command and control aircraft.

On October 17, 1974, the first Sikorsky prototype took flight, powered by two General Electric T700-GE-700 1,620-horsepower turboshafts, turning a composite titanium and fiberglass 53-foot, 8- inch four-bladed main rotor system, and a four-bladed tailrotor. Sikorsky engineers equipped the UH-60 with the latest in technology, including IR suppression kits for the engines; Stability Control Augmentation System (SCAS); transmission and gearboxes with thirty-minute dry-run capabilities; rotors and driveshafts designed to sustain multiple hits by 23-mm cannon fire and remain operational; armored, crash-resistant crew seating and energy-absorbing wheeled landing gear; and deicing capability to operate in moderate icing conditions. In the fly-off prototypes reached 195 knots, lifted off at 21,000 pounds gross weights, hauled a 7,000-pound slingload, and demonstrated a service ceiling of 18,400 feet.

During the UTTAS operational test program, vibrations forced an Army crew to execute a night landing in the thick forests of Fort Campbell, Kentucky. The Blackhawk’s main rotor blades chopped down 12-inch pine trees, and the aircraft landed with no injuries to the crew or infantrymen aboard. After judging that the UH-60 had sustained only superficial damage, an Army/Sikorsky support team installed a new set of rotor blades and enlarged the LZ with a chain saw, allowing the Blackhawk to complete the evaluation. The ruggedness of the UH-60 duly impressed Army evaluators, affecting their decision to select the UH-60 as the winner of the UTTAS competition. The Army accepted delivery of its first Blackhawk in August 1978 (Pember 1998, 60).

In the early 1980s, Sikorsky also modified several UH-60s to meet other, diverse Army requirements. The company modified several UH-60As for special operations with (Forward Looking Infra Red) FLIR, door-mounted 7.62-mm miniguns and auxiliary fuel tanks. The EH-60E Quick Fix II, Electronic Countermeasures (ECM), replaced the UH-1 Quick Fix system fielded in the 1970s. In addition to an advanced navigation system and avionics, the new variant carried a unique external dipole antenna integrated into a computerized Radio Direction Finding (RDF), radio intercept, and communications jamming system. The EH-60B Stand-Off Target Acquisition System (SOTAS) helicopter carried an underfuselage Side-Looking Aerial Radar (SLAR) antenna, designed to detect movement of enemy forces, especially vehicles and low-flying aircraft. The SOTAS flew behind friendly lines, and the radar’s Moving Target Indicator (MTI) detected enemy movements and relayed the intelligence to a ground station via a digital datalink. A “long-stroke” landing gear permitted the SLAR antenna to rotate 360 degrees beneath the aircraft. A specially equipped medevac, the UH-60Q, provided enhanced medical care for six litter patients, with an onboard oxygen generating system, electronic heart monitors, and a medical suction system. Saudi Arabia bought eight versions of the Desert Hawk, an UH-60Q with specialized avionics and air conditioning.

Blackhawks saw significant combat service in both Granada and Panama in the 1980s. Both regular Army and Special Operations units utilized the UH-60 and were impressed with the rugged Sikorsky aircraft. In Operation Urgent Fury, the 1983 U. S. invasion of Grenada, several Blackhawks suffered multiple hits by 12.7-mm and 23-mm cannon fire but returned their crews to safety. A few Blackhawk pilots landed their bullet-riddled, smoking aircraft on Navy carriers. In one instance the engine controls were shot away, and the Navy firefighters had to shut the Blackhawk engines down by running a firehose into the engine inlets before they could shove the hulk overboard.

In February 1978 the U. S. Navy ordered the SH-60B Seahawk, Light Airborne Multi Purpose System (LAMPS), helicopter with GE T700-GE401 turboshafts, folding main rotor blades and tailboom, and a longer-life control system. Sikorsky equipped the Seahawk with typical ASW equipment of a dipping sonar, twenty-five sonobuoys, and two to three Mk 46/50 acoustic torpedoes. The Navy later updated the Seahawk with an IBM LAMPS III ASW suite that included the antiship Penguin missile, T700-GE-401C 1,900-horsepower engines, extra fuel tanks, and added emergency flotation equipment. In the early 1980s the Seahawk began ASW operations from Navy frigates, destroyers, and cruisers. Additional missions for the SH-60 B included SAR and vertical replenishment. The Navy subsequently ordered versions of the S-70 for plane guard and special operation missions. Designated HH-60H, SH-60F, and SH-60FST, the latter intended for special warfare, delivery/extraction of SEAL teams, and combat rescue operations, they were equipped with radar warning and ECM equipment, .50-caliber doorguns, and mounting points for Hellfire missiles. The Navy planned on further orders for a multirole helicopter designated SH- 60R. The USMC ordered a specialized VIP version of the SH-60B for its Presidential Flight Detachment with weather radar, secure communications equipment, and a luxurious executive interior.

The USCG procured the 180-knot HH-60J JayHawk Medium Range Rescue (MRR) helicopter for SAR, law enforcement, and environmental control operations. The JayHawk came equipped much like the SH-60, but with a nose-mounted search radar and GPS navigation system. Although it was not able to land on water, the JayHawk could range out to 300 nautical miles, hover for forty-five minutes, and return to base without becoming fuel critical.

In October 1989 the Sikorsky UH-60L began to replace the UH- 60A as the standard production utility helicopter for the U. S. Army. Experience around the world convinced the Army that the Blackhawk required significant increases in performance to meet the needs of soldiers in combat. The L model incorporated uprated T700-GE-701C engines that included new IR shrouds and digital electronic fuel controls that increased available power from 1,560 horsepower to 1,940 horsepower per engine; more durable gearboxes; increased pitch for the tailrotor to allow pilots to make use of the increased engine power; SH-60B flight controls; and the External Stores Support System (ESSS), a removable wing pylon with four stations for external fuel tanks or other stores, including sixteen Hellfire ATGMs. The ESSS fuel system extended the range of the UH-60L to 1,140 nautical miles. The ALQ-144 IR jammer and M- 130 chaff/flare dispenser came standard on the new Blackhawk. The improvements increased cruise airspeed to 152 knots, improved high-altitude and hot weather operations, and increased the maximum gross weight from 20,250 to 22,000 pounds. The UH-60L also gained the ability to sling a 9,000-pound load High Mobility Multiwheeled Vehicle (HMMV), which replaced the jeep as the Army’s primary frontline vehicle.

After the October 1993 command and control debacle in Somalia, the U. S. military realized that Special Operations Command (SOCOM) required specialized helicopters with sophisticated communications and navigation systems, as well as heavier firepower. Despite the heroic efforts of the OH-6 “Little Bird” pilots of the 160th Aviation Regiment, who poured minigun fire into the rebel fighters all night, their aircraft lacked the punch to drive the attackers away from the besieged Army Delta Force and Rangers. Although ten fully armed AH-1F Cobras sat on standby a few minutes away, arrogant special operations officers refused to permit the heavily armed Cobras to enter the desperate struggle, resulting in needless deaths of U. S. soldiers. As a result, the DoD ordered the Sikorsky MH-60G PaveHawk, a USAF special mission and deep penetration rescue helicopter with in-flight refueling probe, special mission avionics, including Side Looking Infrared (SLIR), GPS, and a computerized flight direction system linked to an integrated multifunctional all glass cockpit. The Army received the MH-60K, similar to the MH-60G with a chin-mounted FLIR replacing the SLIR, and external fuel tanks, a 30-mm cannon, and Stinger missiles installed on the ESSS. The MH-60K mounted .50-caliber doorguns, and some carried two 20-mm cannons. Uprated T-700-GE-701C engines increased maximum gross weights and hot weather performance.

During Desert Shield/Storm, Blackhawks flew thousands of combat hours and performed superbly, with only one lost to enemy fire. The UH-60 again proved its rugged dependability in the first Persian Gulf War, but when the United States sent forces into Afghanistan in 2002 the mountainous terrain severely limited the Blackhawk’s efficiency. Like many Soviet helicopters in the 1980s, the UH-60 proved underpowered to operate at high gross weights in the 18,000-foot mountains, and a loss of tailrotor authority caused a loss of directional control at critical points in the flight profile. The Army required the UH-60 to lift and move 10,000 pounds at 4,000 feet at 95 degrees Fahrenheit, but higher-density altitudes and temperatures reduced the useful load that the helicopter could carry. Instead of its fleet of UH-60s the Army used the more powerful CH- 47 Chinooks to conduct combat assaults, as well as ferry troops and supplies.

To remedy the problem the Army plans to replace all T700-GE- 700 (1,622 horsepower) on the UH-60A and the T700-GE-701C (1,890 horsepower) on the UH-60L with the T700-GE-701D (2,000 horsepower) on the UH-60M, expected to be delivered in 2005. The UH-60M will also have an uprated transmission and gearboxes to utilize the increased engine power. In addition to the United States, Argentina, Australia (assembled by Hawker de Havilland), Brunei, China (Taiwan), Colombia, Japan (built by Mitsubishi Industries), Egypt, Greece, Hong Kong, Iran, Jordan, Mexico, Morocco, Philippines, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Thailand, Turkey (fifty assembled by Havacilik ve Uzay Sanayi A. S. in Turkey), and the United Kingdom used versions of the 2,433 S-70/UH-60s produced by 2003.


Utility variants

    YUH-60A: Initial test and evaluation version for U.S. Army. First flight on 17 October 1974; three built.

    UH-60A Black Hawk: Original U.S. Army version, carrying a crew of four and up to 11 equipped troops. Equipped with T700-GE-700 engines. Produced 1977–1989. U.S. Army is equipping UH-60As with more powerful T700-GE-701D engines and also upgrading A-models to UH-60L standard.

    UH-60C Black Hawk: Modified version for command and control (C2) missions.

    CH-60E: Proposed troop transport variant for the U.S. Marine Corps.

    UH-60L Black Hawk: UH-60A with upgraded T700-GE-701C engines, improved durability gearbox, and updated flight control system. Produced 1989–2007. UH-60Ls are also being equipped with the GE T700-GE-701D engine. The U.S. Army Corpus Christi Army Depot is upgrading UH-60A helicopters to the UH-60L configuration. In July 2018, Sierra Nevada Corporation proposed upgrading some converted UH-60L helicopters for the U.S. Air Force’s UH-1N replacement program.

    UH-60V Black Hawk: Upgraded version of the UH-60L with the electronic displays (glass cockpit) of the UH-60M. Upgrades performed by Northrop Grumman featuring a centralized processor with a partitioned, modular operational flight program enabling capabilities to be added as software-only modifications.

    UH-60M Black Hawk: Improved design wide chord rotor blades, T700-GE-701D engines (max 2,000 shp or 1,500 kW each), improved durability gearbox, Integrated Vehicle Health Management System (IVHMS) computer, and new glass cockpit. Production began in 2006. Planned to replace older U.S. Army UH-60s.

    UH-60M Upgrade Black Hawk: UH-60M with fly-by-wire system and Common Avionics Architecture System (CAAS) cockpit suite. Flight testing began in August 2008.

Special purpose

EH-60A Black Hawk: UH-60A with modified electrical system and stations for two electronic systems mission operators. All examples of type have been converted back to standard UH-60A configuration.

YEH-60B Black Hawk: UH-60A modified for special radar and avionics installations, prototype for stand-off target acquisition system.

EH-60C Black Hawk: UH-60A modified with special electronics equipment and external antenna. (All examples of type have been taken back to standard UH-60A configuration.)

EUH-60L (no official name assigned): UH-60L modified with additional mission electronic equipment for Army Airborne C2.

EH-60L Black Hawk: EH-60A with major mission equipment upgrade.

UH-60Q Black Hawk: UH-60A modified for medical evacuation. The UH-60Q is named DUSTOFF for “dedicated unhesitating service to our fighting forces”.

HH-60L (no official name assigned): UH-60L extensively modified with medical mission equipment.[103] Components include an external rescue hoist, integrated patient configuration system, environmental control system, on-board oxygen system (OBOGS), and crashworthy ambulatory seats.

HH-60M Black Hawk: UH-60M with medical mission equipment (medevac version) for U.S. Army.

HH-60U: USAF UH-60M version modified with an electro-optical sensor and rescue hoist. Three in use by Air Force pilots and special mission aviators since 2011. Has 85% commonality with the HH-60W.

HH-60W: Modified version of the UH-60M for the U.S. Air Force as a Combat Rescue Helicopter to replace HH-60G Pave Hawks with greater fuel capacity and more internal cabin space, dubbed the “60-Whiskey”. Deliveries to begin in 2019.

MH-60A Black Hawk: 30 UH-60As modified with additional avionics, night vision capable cockpit, FLIR, M134 door guns, internal auxiliary fuel tanks and other Special Operations mission equipment in early 1980s for U.S. Army. Equipped with T700-GE-701 engines. Variant was used by the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment. The MH-60As were replaced by MH-60Ls beginning in the early 1990s and passed to the Air National Guard.

MH-60K Black Hawk: Special operations modification first ordered in 1988 for use by the U.S. Army’s 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (“Night Stalkers”). Equipped with the in-flight refueling probe, and T700-GE-701C engines. More advanced than the MH-60L, the K-model also includes an integrated avionics system (glass cockpit), AN/APQ-174B terrain-following radar, color weather map, improved weapons capability, and various defensive systems.

MH-60L Black Hawk: Special operations modification, used by the U.S. Army’s 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (“Night Stalkers”), based on the UH-60L with T700-701C engines. It was developed as an interim version in the late 1980s pending fielding of the MH-60K. Equipped with many of the systems used on MH-60K, including FLIR, color weather map, auxiliary fuel system, and laser rangefinder/designator. A total of 37 MH-60Ls were built and some 10 had received an in-flight refueling probe by 2003.

    MH-60L DAP: The Direct Action Penetrator (DAP) is a special operations modification of the baseline MH-60L, operated by the U.S. Army’s 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment. The DAP is configured as a gunship, with no troop-carrying capacity. The DAP is equipped with ESSS or ETS stub wings, each capable of carrying configurations of the M230 Chain Gun 30 mm automatic cannon, 19-shot Hydra 70 rocket pod, AGM-114 Hellfire missiles, AIM-92 Stinger air-to-air missiles, GAU-19 gun pods, and M134 minigun pods, M134D miniguns are used as door guns.

    MH-60M Black Hawk: Special operations version of UH-60M for U.S. Army. Features the Rockwell Collins Common Avionics Architecture System (CAAS) glass cockpit and more powerful YT706-GE-700 engines. All special operations Black Hawks to be modernized to MH-60M standard by 2015.

    MH-60 Black Hawk stealth helicopter: One of two (known) specially modified MH-60s used in the raid on Osama bin Laden’s hideout in Pakistan on 1 May 2011 was damaged in a hard landing, and was subsequently destroyed by U.S. forces. Subsequent reports state that the Black Hawk destroyed was a previously unconfirmed, but rumored, modification of the design with reduced noise signature and stealth technology. The modifications are said to add several hundred pounds to the base helicopter including edge alignment panels, special coatings and anti-radar treatments for the windshields.

    UH-60A RASCAL: NASA-modified version for the Rotorcraft-Aircrew Systems Concepts Airborne Laboratory; a US$25M program for the study of helicopter maneuverability in three programs, Superaugmented Controls for Agile Maneuvering Performance (SCAMP), Automated Nap-of-the-Earth (ANOE) and Rotorcraft Agility and Pilotage Improvement Demonstration (RAPID). The UH-60A RASCAL performed a fully autonomous flight on 5 November 2012. U.S. Army personnel were on board, but the flying was done by the helicopter. During a two-hour flight, the Black Hawk featured terrain sensing, trajectory generation, threat avoidance, and autonomous flight control. It was fitted with a 3D-LZ laser detection and ranging (LADAR) system. The autonomous flight was performed between 200 and 400 feet. Upon landing, the onboard technology was able to pinpoint a safe landing zone, hover, and safely bring itself down.

    OPBH: On 11 March 2014, Sikorsky successfully conducted the first flight demonstration of their Optionally Piloted Black Hawk (OPBH), a milestone part of the company’s Manned/Unmanned Resupply Aerial Lifter (MURAL) program to provide autonomous cargo delivery for the U.S. Army. The helicopter used the company’s Matrix technology (software to improve features of autonomous, optionally-piloted VTOL aircraft) to perform autonomous hover and flight operations under the control of an operator using a man-portable Ground Control Station (GCS). The MURAL program is a cooperative effort between Sikorsky, the US Army Aviation Development Directorate (ADD), and the US Army Utility Helicopters Project Office (UH PO). The purpose of creating an optionally-manned Black Hawk is to make the aircraft autonomously carry out resupply missions and expeditionary operations while increasing sorties and maintaining crew rest requirements and leaving pilots to focus more on sensitive operations.

    VH-60D Night Hawk: VIP-configured HH-60D, used for Presidential transport by USMC. T700-GE-401C engines. Variant was later redesignated VH-60N.

    VH-60N White Hawk “White Top”: Modified UH-60A with some features from the SH-60B/F Seahawks. Is one of the VIP-configured USMC helicopter models that perform Presidential and VIP transport as Marine One. The VH-60N entered service in 1988 and nine helicopters were delivered.

    VH-60M Black Hawk “Gold Top”: Heavily modified UH-60M used for executive transport. Members of the Joint Chiefs, Congressional leadership, and other DoD personnel are flown on these exclusively by the 12th Aviation Battalion at Fort Belvoir, Virginia.

Export versions

    UH-60J Black Hawk: Variant for the Japanese Air Self Defense Force and Maritime Self Defense Force produced under license by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries. Also known as the S-70-12.[139]

    UH-60JA Black Hawk: Variant for the Japanese Ground Self Defense Force. It is license produced by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries.

    AH-60L Arpía: Export version for Colombia developed by Elbit Systems, Sikorsky, and the Colombian Air Force. It is Counter-insurgency (COIN) attack version with improved electronics, firing system, FLIR, radar, light rockets and machine guns.

    AH-60L Battle Hawk: Export armed version unsuccessfully tendered for Australian Army[11] project AIR87, similar to AH-60L Arpía III. Sikorsky has also offered a Battlehawk armed version for export in the form of armament kits and upgrades. Sikorsky’s Armed Black hawk demonstrator has tested a 20 mm turreted cannon, and different guided missiles. The United Arab Emirates ordered Battlehawk kits in 2011.

    UH-60P Black Hawk: Version for South Korea Army, based on UH-60L with some improvements. Around 150 were produced under license by Korean Air.

Country of origin: USA Crew: 2 pilots and crewchief with doorgunner or technical operators, or parajumper Rotor diameter: 53 ft. 3 in. Length: 50 ft. Armament: Two 7.62-mm machine guns on utility version: combinations of 20/30-mm cannon, 2.75-inch rockets, and Hellfire ATGM, Stinger AAM, or mine dispensers. Naval versions mount MK 46 ASW torpedoes. Powerplant: Two GE T-700 turboshafts Airspeed: 194 knots Range: 319 nautical miles, or 1,200 nautical miles with external tanks Cargo capacity: 12 combat loaded troops or litters. Maximum external load of 9,000 pounds Notes: Prototype flew in October 1974 in competition for U. S. Army Utility Tactical Transport Aircraft System and entered regular service in 1979. HH-60 Nighthawk SAR version produced for USAF. EH-60 Quick Fix is ECM version. U. S. Navy Light Airborne Multipurpose System (LAMPS) Seahawk tailboom folds for shipboard operations, and is equipped for ASW and ship surveillance/targeting. Westland builds the S-70 in United Kingdom as WS-70. Military and commercial versions sold worldwide. Well over 2,000 of all versions produced.

Blackhawk Helicopter – Special operations

Stealth Black Hawk