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UH-60L / S-70A Blackhawk

The UH-60L Blackhawk is the Army's premier utility helicopter. Designed primarily to deliver an eleven man combat infantry squad anywhere on the battlefield. It is also used to enhance and extend the capabilities of all commanders to initiate, conduct, and sustain combat operations by providing air movement of troops, internal and external lift of weapons systems, supplies, and equipment at corps and lower echelons. The UH-60 Black Hawk continues to be the primary air platform for airborne command and control at the tactical level.

The Army began fielding the UH-60 in 1978. From 1978 until 1989 the Army procured UH-60A model aircraft. In October 1989, a power train upgrade resulted in a model designation change from UH-60A to UH-60L. As of the end of FY97, the Army had procured 483 UH-60L models for a total UH-60 acquisition of 1,463 aircraft. The multi-year procurement contract called for the delivery of 60 aircraft per year. As of 1999 a total of 298 UH-60A and 76 UH-60L helicopters had been distributed to Army National Guard units. This quantity represented about 40% of the Army National Guard total requirement of 939 modern utility helicopters. Planned UH-60L procurement for Active Army units will release additional UH-60A helicopters for redistribution to Army National Guard units. After redistribution, the Army National Guard will still be short 444 of the total UH-60 requirements, based on final retirement of all UH-1 helicopters by the year 2000.

Since October of 1989, Sikorsky has been producing the UH-60L BLACK HAWK helicopter with 24 percent more power than the UH-60A model. The T700-GE-701C turbine engines enable the UH-60L to take advantage of the new 3,400 shp improved durability main gearbox. The UH-60L was further modified with SEAHAWK flight control components and an increase in tail rotor pitch. These modifications allow the aircraft to take full advantage of available engine power while extending the flight control component fatigue lives in excess of 5,000 hours.

The world's most advanced twin-turbine military helicopter, the UH-60L is powered by twin General Electric T700-GE-701C turboshafts rated 1,700 shp each, plus the 3,400 shp Improved Durability Gearbox and heavy-duty flight controls developed for the naval S-70B SEAHAWK. The T700-GE-701C has better high altitude and hot weather performance, greater lifting capacity, and improved corrosion protection. It is cleared to 22,000 lbs. gross weight, and can carry 9,000 lbs. external loads. New wide-chord composite main rotor blades and further engine upgrades are available for future performance requirements.

As an example of the benefits of this upgrade, a modified UH-60L BLACK HAWK is capable of airlifting a 9,000 pound external payload, 60 nm under Saudi hot day conditions (sea level 120F): an increase of 3,000 pounds over the UH-60A model. In response to the growing weights of external loads such as weaponized M1036 High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles (HMMWV), the Army increased the external hook capacity to 9,000 pounds for a gross weight of 23,500 pounds. This improvement, for example, allows organic UH-60L aviation resources to more closely match the lift requirements within the Light Infantry Divisions.

An External Stores Support System (ESSS), consisting of removable four-station pylons, multiplies BLACK HAWK roles. With the ESSS, the UH-60L can carry additional fuel tanks for extended range in self-deployment up to 1,150 nautical miles. For anti-armor missions, it can pack 16 HELLFIRE missiles on the pylons, and can hold 16 more internally, as well as carrying a variety of other ordnance, including guns and mine dispensers.

The modernization program of the UH-60 will enhance the Force XXI commander's ability to conduct non-linear, simultaneous, fully integrated operations in order to decisively mass the effects of the Divisions warfighting assets. As a critical Force XXI system of systems, the UH-60 will provide digital connectivity for enhanced situational awareness and improved lift, range, deployability, and survivability to further increase the commander's ability to conduct operations across the entire spectrum of the battlespace.

In addition to a 25-year airframe service life extension requirement, the UH-60 program must employ technologies to increase pilot efficiency, increase mission safety and effectiveness, provide a digital communications architecture, enhance survivability, improve Reliability, Availability, and Maintainability (RAM), reduce Operational and Support (O&S) costs, and allow for future system growth. The modernized UH-60 crew station design must be compatible with future aviation life support equipment (ALSE) specifications. It is the intent that the UH-60 Black Hawk will capitalize on the current system design and all technological advances that are appropriate and compatible in terms of performance, cost, and risk.

The requirements contained within the Operational Requirements Document (ORD) will be achieved by a two-tiered development and production approach resulting in a fleet with mixed performance capability.

Tier 1 aircraft were to be commonly referred to as the UH-60L+. The UH-60L+ cockpit will incorporate Force XXI digital battlefield capability. All nav/com avionics and selected flight instruments will be replaced with Multifunctional Display (MFD). The first tier will provide life extension, digitization, and other enhancements to make the UH-60 relevant and effective on the modern battlefield.

Tier 2 aircraft were to be commonly referred to as the UH-60(X) until formal designation was received. The second tier will focus primarily on performance related capabilities needed to support the Army Vision that can not be achieved today within acceptable cost, schedule and risk constraints. The achievement of tier 2 performance levels will rely on the development and qualification of technology that is currently not available. Current operator and maintainer UH-60A/L training material, devices, and simulators will be required to continue UH-60A/L training until the fully modernized UH-60(x) has replaced all systems in the field.

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.



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