The UH-60M is designed to replace the UH-60A and is the centerpiece of the long-term effort to modernize the service's medium-lift helicopter fleet. Sikorsky Aircraft has manufactured the Army BLACK HAWK since 1978. The UH-60M provides additional payload and range, advanced digital avionics, better handling qualities and situational awareness, active vibration control, improved survivability, and improved producibility using high speed machined parts.
The UH-60M's new composite spar wide-chord blade will provide 227 kg (500 lb) more lift than the current UH-60L blade. The new General Electric T700-GE-701D engine will add more shaft horsepower, and allow additional lift during external lift (sling load) operations.
The new cockpit includes multi-function displays; flight management systems; modern flight control computers with fully coupled autopilot; an integrated vehicle health management system with flight data and cockpit voice recorder; inertial navigation systems with embedded global positioning systems; improved data modem; and improved heads-up displays. The narrower cockpit instrument panel will also significantly improve chin window visibility.
The UH-60M program is funded through FY 2010 and will encompass the transformation or recapitalization of UH-60A-to-UH-60A or M. The modification will include upgrades to the airframe, propulsion and drive train, digital cockpit and provide a crashworthy external fuel system, which incorporates a submerged boost pump verses the positive air pressure system currently in use. The new, rebuilt Black Hawk, designated the UH-60M, will use the older L model's T-701C engines, gear box, windshield, heating system, and crashworthy seats, but it also include many new features such as a digital cockpit with multifunctional displays, digital flight controls, global positioning, active vibration suppression, upgraded troop seats, improved infrared suppression, jamming and warning systems, and a revised fuel tank.
In 1978 the first UH-60A Black Hawk rolled off of the production line at Sikorsky Aircraft Company, and the Army had its first new utility helicopter since the UH-1 Huey was introduced in 1959. The Army originally planned to build a new aviation system every 20 years because that's about how long it can safely expect an aircraft to last the rigors of training and battle. Now, however, the Army plans to retire all Hueys by the end of FY '04, but there is no new utility helicopter in the works to replace the Black Hawk. So what's an Army to do if it intends to have utility aviation support in the Objective Force of 2020? The answer is recapitalize the Black Hawk: strip it down to its airframe, rebuild it with all new equipment and give it at least 20 more years of life.
The UH-60M is the upgrade of the UH-60A- focusing on increased range and lift capability, 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, improved handling characteristics and commonality for a variety of missions.
The March 2001 Operational Requirements Document establishes a block approach to development and modernization. The Army intends the Block 1 aircraft to provide the entire UH-60 fleet with a digital cockpit, extended service life, and performance and reliability levels equivalent to the UH-60L. The Army plans for the UH-60M digital cockpit to feature a four multi-function display design to improve pilot situational awareness and enhance capabilities to communicate and operate on the digital battlefield.
The Army intended for the long term Block 2 aircraft requirements to leverage new engine technologies that have potential to dramatically increase range and lift capability. Block 2 aircraft survivability is to be further enhanced by two systems in development now: the Suite of Integrated Radio Frequency Countermeasures and the Suite of Integrated Infrared Countermeasures. The Under Secretary of Defense, Acquisition and Technology waived the requirement for full-up system level LFT&E based on an alternative plan approved by DOT&E.
Block 1 aircraft may commonly be 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). Block 2 aircraft may commonly be referred to as the UH-60(X) until formal designation is received. Today's Army has 906 UH-60As and about 500 UH-60Ls. The main differences between the two models is that the UH-60L has T-701C engines with more horsepower than the A model's T-700 engines, and the L model also has an improved durability gear box.
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. 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 Army then planned to enter low-rate initial production of the UH-60M in FY'04, with initially plans calling for an eventual increase production around FY '07 to about 70 aircraft per year until 2024. Of those 70 aircraft per year, about 60 would be recapitalized Black Hawks and about 10 would be new production models. By early 2002 plans called for the UH-60M tol enter low-rate initial production in FY04 and eventually increase production to about 90 aircraft per year until 2020. The Army plans to convert all 900-plus UH-60A models and some UH-60L models to the M configuration and build some new production M models, as well. A total of 1,217 UH-60Ms are planned.
A total of 1217 UH-60A and L aircraft were to be recapitalized to the UH-60M. New built UH-60M would be "cut-in" to the existing UH-60L production line in order to grow the Utility Helicopter fleet size to meet interim and objective force requirements.
The UH-60M was initially planned to be built both as a retrofit to the older UH-60A and UH-60L fleet and as a new aircraft under future multi-year H-60 production contracts. The UH-60M was to be fielded in the 2006/07 time frame. The improvements will establish an aircraft fleet half-life (average age) of 10 years. The upgrade program is designed to extend the operating life of the BLACK HAWK fleet for an additional 25-30 years, as the current Army Aviation Modernization Plan projects no replacement for the BLACK HAWK to enter service prior to 2025.
The Army revised the acquisition strategy for the UH-60M to procure new UH-60M helicopters in lieu of Recap/Upgrade. This program addresses current UH-60 fleet aging problems such as decreasing operational readiness (OR) and increasing O&S costs, including all top-ten cost drivers, and provides a common, modernized platform for the UH-60 utility and MEDEVAC fleet of the future. The program will be executed over four phases: pre-System Development/Demonstration Phase (FY00-01), System Development/Demonstration Phase (Baseline FY01-07) (Upgrade FY05-10), Production/Readiness Phase (FY05-25), and Operations and Sustainment Phase (FY06-FY44).
The UH-60M standardized the fleet with the UH-60L General Electric T700-GE-701C engine and the improved durability main gearbox. The UH-60M will feature wide chord composite spar main rotor blades, a digitized 1553 bus-based cockpit and avionics suite, an advanced flight control computer, a strengthened fuselage and advanced infrared suppression. The new glass cockpits and instruments that provide better situational awareness. It is expected to reduce maintenance costs by one-fourth of the current UH-60A expense. The M model reduced operation and support costs by $500 per flight hour compared to the A model.
The modernization program of the UH-60 enhanced 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 provides 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 Army defined a requirement to increase the payload and range of the older UH-60A fleet to carry heavier equipment acquired since the inception of the BLACK HAWK program and to meet its emerging doctrinal needs, including operating on the digital battlefield. The modernization will increase the lift and range of the UH-60A's. The UH-60M configuration provides up to a 2,000-pound payload advantage and a 15-knot speed improvement over the UH-60A.
Corpus Christi Army Depot (CCAD), Texas (and other sites if the work load exceeds CCAD's capabilities), stripped and prepared the helicopters for shipment to Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation in Stratford, Connecticut, for refurbishing. Low-rate initial production of the modified systems was slated to begin in 2004, followed by full production at a rate of 60 to 85 a year until the project is complete.
The upgrade underwent extensive tesing. According to the DOT&E, until the prototype aircraft flight-testing was complete, the adequacy of the UH-60M structural design would not be validated. It is possible that unexpected fatigue, dynamic, or vibration loads could be encountered in the newly designed airframe.
Software development and integration issues remain with the processor throughput for some subsystems. The aircraft system computer resource utilization is desired to be less than 50 percent. However, three subsystems exceed the 50 percent utilization goal in the program.
The EUD2 demonstrates that pilots in the UH-60M cockpit can perform today's air assault mission. Pilot vehicle interfaces are adequate with the exception of free text messaging procedures. The messaging procedures are not intuitive and are time-consuming, requiring the copilot to remain focused inside the cockpit for extended periods of time. With respect to workload levels, pilots report that they retain the capacity to perform all desirable additional tasks when operating in the new cockpit. Pilot situational awareness is enhanced by the navigation aids and digital map display systems.
The integrated Army/Navy LFT&E plan takes into account vulnerability reduction features that were incorporated into the Black Hawk since its initial fielding in 1978, combat damage experience, subsystem qualification efforts, computer modeling and simulation, as well as other Services' testing. Test results show improved survivability over prior H-60 model aircraft.
In early 2005 the Pentagon's Defense Acquisition Board (DAB) authorized the Army's UH-60M BLACK HAWK program to proceed with Low Rate Initial Production (LRIP) of 22 new UH-60M's with authorization to build up to 40 new helicopters through fiscal year 2006. LRIP is the last phase in a defense procurement program before a full-rate production decision is made.
The Acquisition Decision Memorandum (ADM) issued March 31, also authorized advanced procurement for the first lot of full rate production UH-60Ms, beginning in FY07. The decision reflects the Army's effort to lower fleet operating and support costs. To date Sikorsky had delivered three UH-60Ms and was under contract to deliver five more of the latest version BLACK HAWKs for the test program.
Two members of Congress, an Army general, the DCMA Aeronautical Systems director, and the president of Sikorsky Aircraft helped the Army roll out the next-generation Black Hawk on 31 July 2006. A ceremony at Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation celebrated delivery of the first production UH-60M Black Hawk helicopter. It is one of 22 to be built under a contract worth more than $245 million. Contract activity for initial development began in 2001, and a milestone for low-rate initial production (LRIP) was achieved in March 2005. Seven prototype UH-60Ms have been manufactured in addition to one HH-60M medical evacuation helicopter. The first LRIP aircraft will join four other prototypes in operational testing. The Army's current plans call for procurement of approximately 1,200 new helicopters.
A full-rate production decision to authorize more than 1,200 UH-60M aircraft was scheduled for 2007. Exact procurement numbers year-to-year and across the life of the program will be determined by budget authorizations and specific contract awards. A successful UH-60M Upgrade IPR decision was obtained in January 2006. On May 18, 2007, the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) Overarching Integrated Product Team (OIPT) report recommended approval for the UH-60M program to enter Full Rate Production (FRP) and approved the Army request for advanced procurement for seven UH-60M Upgrade aircraft and recommended a paper Defense Acquisition Board (DAB). On June 26, 2007 the Black Hawk Full Rate Production (FRP) Acquisition Decision Memorandum (ADM) was signed. This newly approved ADM authorizes entry into FRP for the Black Hawk Upgrade Program to include both the UH-60M and HH-60M baseline aircraft. The ADM also provides for FY08 advanced procurement for long lead items to support the initial cut-in aircraft for the UH/HH-60M Upgrade effort.
Sikorsky Aircraft Corp., Stratford, Conn., was awarded on March 6, 2008, a $368,385,849 firm-fixed price contract for six UH-60M and twenty HH-60M Black Hawk helicopters and post DD250 Installation of auxiliary power unit kits. Work will be performed in Stratford, Conn., and is expected to be completed by Dec. 31, 2012. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. There was one bid solicited on Oct. 20, 2005, and one bid was received. The U.S. Army Aviation & Missile Command, Redstone Arsenal, Ala., is the contracting activity W58RGZ-08-C-003.
On 03 July 2017 Sikorsky, a Lockheed Martin company, and the U.S. government have signed a five-year contract for 257 H-60 Black Hawk helicopters to be delivered to the U.S. Army and Foreign Military Sales (FMS) customers. The new “Multi-Year IX” contract for UH-60M Black Hawk and HH-60M MEDEVAC aircraft marked the ninth multiple-year contract for Sikorsky and the U.S. government for H-60 helicopters. The contract value for expected deliveries was approximately $3.8 billion and included options for an additional 103 aircraft, with the total contract value potentially reaching $5.2 billion. Actual production quantities will be determined year-by-year over the life of the program based on funding allocations set by Congress and Pentagon acquisition priorities. The deliveries were scheduled to begin in October 2017 and continue through 2022.
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