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UH-60A Black Hawk

The UH-60A Black Hawk is the primary division-level transport helicopter, providing dramatic improvements in troop capacity and cargo lift capability compared to the UH-1 Series "Huey" it replaces. The UH-60A, with a crew of three, can lift an entire 11-man fully-equipped infantry squad in most weather conditions. It can be configured to carry four litters, by removing eight troop seats, in the MedEval role. Both the pilot and co-pilot are provided with armor-protective seats. Protective armor on the Black Hawk can withstand hits from 23mm shells. The Black Hawk has a cargo hook for external lift missions. The Black Hawk has provisions for door mounting of two M60D 7.62mm machine guns on the M144 armament subsystem, and can disperse chaff and infrared jamming flares using the M130 general purpose dispenser. The Black Hawk has a composite titanium and fiberglass four-bladed main rotor, is powered by two General Electric T700-GE-700 1622 shp turboshaft engines, and has a speed of 163 mph (142 knots).

The UH-60, first flown in October 1974, was developed as result of the Utility Tactical Transport Aircraft System (UTTAS) program. The UTTAS was designed for troop transport, command and control, MedEvac, and reconnaissance, to replace the UH-1 Series "Huey" in the combat assault role. In August 1972, the US Army selected the Sikorsky (model S-70) YUH-60A and the Boeing Vertol (model 237) YUH-61A (1974) as competitors in the UTTAS program. The Boeing Vertol YUH-61A had a four-bladed composite rotor, was powered by the same General Electric T700 engine as the Sikorsky YUH-60A, and could carry 11 troops. In December 1976 Sikorsky won the competition to produce the UH-60A, subsequently named the Black Hawk.

Department of Defense (DOD) strategic goals were to be accomplished in part by attaining a specific UH-60 fleet configuration and density through phased major changes and improvements to the UH-60 fleet. These were defined in the Aircraft System Improvement Plan (SIP) List. This document describes the process used by the Utility Helicopters Project Manager's Office (UH PMO) for managing all recommendations for improving and changing the UH-60 BLACK HAWK helicopter. This process is to assure that persons and organizations that supply, use and support the BLACK HAWK are encouraged to identify and submit proposed changes and modifications to the UH-60 that are focused on UH-60 priority needs to the appropriate U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Command (AMCOM) organization for processing.

Most BLACK HAWK improvements are either directly or indirectly related to improving mission effectiveness. Those improvements related to changing missions and threats, and advances in technology are identified at the UH PMO level and above. These improvements are introduced into the fleet through the established program and budget process. Improvements required by the failure of the BLACK HAWK to operate as designed or due to equipment failure (Category I or Category II deficiency) are addressed on an as-required basis.

The Mod/Service Life Extension Program (SLEP) is RDT&E funding for the SLEP and upgrade of the existing UH-60 aircraft which will extend the life of the fleet, improve lift and range performance, enhance survivability, and provide a digitized utility helicopter platform. It was commonly referred to as the A to L+ SLEP. As of 1999 this effort was funded for FY01 to FY03. The UH-60A was to be upgraded to the UH-60L+ model starting in FY03 with a goal of converting 60 aircraft per year by FY06. An additional 26 UH-60L+ helicopters were to be bought through FY05. If the Common Engine Program was implemented, the service would upgrade the aircraft to the UH-60X standard. The upgraded Black Hawks were expected to remain in service until at least 2025. Funding to complete the non-recurring engineering for a UH-60A to UH-60L upgrade, which would primarily apply to Army National Guard helicopters, would result in significantly increased reliability, reduction in operating costs, and increased capability.

Twenty two percent of the UH-60A helicopters within the fleet were over 20 years old at the end of FY00 and 66 percent had exceeded their service half life. Increased operational tempo and the technological age of the airframe, components, and systems are adversely impacting the UH-60 resulting in increased O&S costs and decreased reliability and maintainability. The UH-60 does not have the necessary digital avionics architecture to meet interoperability communication requirements. Existing communication and navigation suites do not meet evolving International Civil Aviation Organization and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) traffic management requirements planned for implementation beginning in 2003. Current UH-60A/L navigation systems do not provide the precision required to insert troops and equipment during future combat (land and over-water) operations especially in darkness and adverse weather conditions.

Elements of the US Army Aviation UH-60A/L Blackhawk helicopter fleet began reaching their sevice life goal of 25 years in 2002. In order for the fleet to remain operationally effective through the time period 2025-2030 the aircraft will need to go through an inspection, refurbishment, and modernization process that will validate the structural integrity of the airframe, incorporate improvements in sub-systems so as to reduce maintenance requirements, and modernize the mission equipment and avionics to the levels compatible with Force XXI and Army After Next (AAN) demands.

A Service Life Extension Program (SLEP) was planned for the UH-60 beginning in FY99. The UH-60 modernization program will identify material requirements to effectively address known operational deficiencies to ensure the Black Hawk is equipped and capable of meeting battlefield requirements through the 2025-2030 timeframe. Primary modernization areas for consideration are: increased lift, advanced avionics (digital communications and navigation suites), enhanced aircraft survivability equipment (ASE), increased reliability and maintainability (R & M), airframe service life extension (SLEP), and reduced operations and support (O & S) costs. Suspense date for the approved Operational Requirements Document (ORD) was December 1998.

The UH-60A SLEP, programmed in 1999 to begin in FY02, would provide a more capable aircraft for the MEDEVAC mission as well as reduce the overall program cost by combining the programs into one effort. The US Army initiated the Utility Helicopter Fleet Modernization Analysis to determine the most effective and economical path to support future US Army operations through the year 2025. This analysis is a fleet replacement problem that considers cost, operational capabilities, and equipment transitions over time. A senior executive decision-making panel, called a General Officer Steering Committee (GOSC) was established to: (1) provide study guidance, (2) provide a forum for modernization strategy discussions, and (3) develop a consensus within the Army Aviation community for the path ahead. A new UH-60L model aircraft, the current production model, costs about $10M, but if an older UH-60A model is inducted and re-built into a UH-60L, the cost is less than $5M, a meaningful factor to be considered. The study alternative set includes multiple versions of the UH-60 series and UH-1 series, as well as several Commercial Off-the-Shelf (COTS) models. The Utility Helicopter Fleet Modernization Analysis, which concluded in January 1999, was led by a General Officer Steering Committee (GOSC) that reached a consensus recommendation for the path ahead. The GOSC consensus was that while a pure UH-60 modernized fleet is the desired approach, it is currently unattainable because of affordability constraints. Therefore, an evolutionary tiered modernization approach should be pursued. Elements of the recommended strategy, specific to the UH-60 BLACK HAWK fleet, are synopsized as follows:

  • Modify 255 UH-60A/L aircraft to meet the UH-60 Modernization ORD Block 2 requirements (digitized cockpit, increased lift, reduced Operation and Support (O&S)) for Force Package (FP) 1 air assault units.
  • Modify 860 UH-60A/L aircraft in FP 1, FP 2-4, and TDA units to a UH-60M configuration, to meet the Block 1 requirements of the UH-60 Modernization ORD.
  • Modify, through modification, 357 UH-60A/Q and HH-60L aircraft, to the UH-60M MEDEVAC BLACK HAWK (UH-60M platform with medical MEP).

The ORD for Recapitalization/Upgrade of the UH-60 BLACK HAWK Utility Helicopter Fleet, signed in January 2000, and updated in September 2000, calls for increased capabilities as technology matures through the use of tiered, evolutionary requirements. In the near term, Block 1 requirements address immediate operational challenges associated with the aging UH-60 fleet. Requirements include digitization/situational awareness, extension of the aircraft life, reduction of fleet O&S costs, and increased operational readiness. Block 2 requirements address additional increases in lift and range, digitization, reductions in operating and support costs and increased survivability. Meeting Block 2 requirements is dependent on technology advances.

In March 2001 the Army received the go-ahead from the Defense Acquisition Board to upgrade its aging fleet of 1,500 UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters to the UH-60M (previously UH-60L+) configuration. In May 2001 AMCOM awarded a $220 million contract to Sikorsky to produce four prototype UH-60Ms. Under this contract, Sikorsky will convert a UH-60A into a UH-60M, a UH-60L into an M model, a UH-60A (medical evacuation) into an M model, and build a new production M model from scratch.

The UH-60M program will recapitalize/upgrade the existing fleet of UH-60A/L aircraft to meet Block 1 requirements identified in the Operational Requirements Document (ORD) for Recapitalization of the UH-60 BLACK HAWK Utility Helicopter Fleet. The ORD requirements provide capabilities for digitization/situational awareness, increased lift and range requirements over the UH-60A model, extend the service life of the aircraft, and increase operational readiness over the current UH-60A model. The Utility Helicopters Program Manager's Office (UH PMO) will meet these requirements by recapitalizing the airframe and qualifying, testing and integrating mature technologies into the UH-60 helicopter.

UH-60 Firehawk is a Reseach and Development program to provide the UH-60 series helicopter with both a wartime and peacetime fire fighting capability by use of a detachable 1,000 gal. belly tank. Qualification issues include design and testing required to maintain the combat capabilities of the UH-60 Black Hawk and the safe flight envelope of the aircraft with the tank.

UH-60 FATHAWK is a conceptual UH-60 capability to refuel/resupply other aviation assets using on-board fuel.



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