The UH-60 Black Hawk, developed by Sikorsky, has been operational in the US Army since 1978.
Variants of the Black Hawk are operational or have been ordered by 34 international customers: the Argentine Air Force, Royal Australian Army, Bahrain, Brazil, Brunei, Chile, Colombian Air Force, Egypt, Greece, Hong Kong, Israel, Japan Self Defence Force, Jordan, Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, Morocco, People’s Republic of China, Royal Saudi Land Forces Army Aviation Command, the Turkish Jandarma, Spain, the Philippine Air Force, Taiwan, and Thailand.
Black Hawk helicopters have logged more than four million flying hours, including a diverse range of combat missions in Panama, Afghanistan, Iraq, and numerous humanitarian and rescue missions including operations in Bosnia.
UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter
There are more than 4,000 Black Hawk variants in operation worldwide. The largest operator is the US Army, which has 2,135 UH-60 designated aircraft.
The UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters are manufactured at the Sikorsky Aircraft production facilities based in Stratford, Connecticut, US. Licensed production of Black Hawk helicopters is also carried out in Japan and the Republic of Korea.
The primary mission of the Black Hawk helicopter is as a troop carrier and logistical support aircraft, but in addition, the helicopter can be configured to carry out medical evacuation, command-and-control, search-and-rescue, armed escort, electronic warfare, and executive transport missions.
UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter design
Black Hawk has low detectability and outstanding nap-of-the-Earth flight capabilities. The aircraft is tolerant to small arms fire and most high-explosive, medium-calibre (23mm) projectiles. The flight controls are ballistically hardened, and the helicopter is equipped with redundant electric and hydraulic systems.
The helicopter has the ability to absorb high-impact velocities. The fuel system is crash-resistant and self-sealing. The crew seats and the landing gear are energy-absorbent.
UH-60 Black Hawk variants
The first UH-60A Black Hawk helicopter was delivered in 1978.
The UH-60L is the upgraded version of UH-60A. The development of the variant started in 1987 by Sikorsky and the US Army. The external features of both variants are similar. The main changes were propulsion and flight control systems. The first UH-60L was delivered in 1989. The production of the variant ended in 2006.
The UH-60M Black Hawk is the multimission variant of the UH-60 family. It is used by the US Army and 27 other countries in the world. UH-60M is installed with a future combat system, better situational awareness, and an integrated vehicle health management system. It can be operated at a speed of 151 knots.
The UH/HH-60 Black Hawk is a tactical support helicopter with high troop and cargo lift facilities and overall mobility. It is used by the army for command and control, general support, assistance in special operations, and air assault. The UH/HH-60 can mount two 7.62mm machine guns.
The UH-60Q DUSTOFF is the medical evacuation (MEDEVAC) helicopter based on the UH-60. It features advanced medical technology, Forward Looking Infra-Red system, GPS and stub wings for carrying range-extension fuel tanks.
The HH-60M is the MEDEVAC version of the UH-60M and features advanced lifesaving technology and rescue equipment.
The UH-60P is the Republic of Korea’s version of the Black Hawk helicopter.
UH-60V Black Hawk helicopter
UH-60V Black Hawk helicopter, also known as Victor, is the updated version of the US Army’s UH-60L Black Hawk helicopter. Northrop Grumman, an aerospace and defence company based in the US, is the digital cockpit avionics developer for the UH-60V and supplied an integrated avionics suite for the helicopter.
The US Army awarded the initial contract for the UH-60V in 2014. The first flight of the UH-60V successfully took place in January 2017 at Huntsville, Alabama, US. In 2019, the helicopter completed its initial operational test and evaluation. It received the VFR certification in 2021 and made its entry into service Pennsylvania National Guard’s Eastern Army National Guard Aviation Training Site at Fort Indiantown Gap.
The variant won its Instrument Flight Rules airworthiness by the US Army in April 2022.
American company KBR was awarded a $156.7m contract in November 2022 for updating the US Army’s UH-60V Black Hawk fleet under the Department of Defense Information Analysis Center’s multiple-award contract vehicle.
Northrop Grumman is providing engineering services to KBR. Thales is providing flight management system software.
The new UH-60V helicopter will feature an upgraded digital cockpit with an open architecture-based cockpit design, advanced mission capability and flight planning and a certified GPS RNAV database, which replaces the analogue gauges in UH-60L helicopters.
The UH-60V digital cockpit solution supports the integration of off-the-shelf hardware and software and is in line with the Future Airborne Capability Environment standard.
UH-60M Black Hawk helicopter upgrade programme
In April 2001, the US Army approved an upgrade programme for more than 1,500 Black Hawks to UH-60M standard. The first flight of the UH60M took place in September 2003 and three helicopters have been delivered for the test programme.
The US Army initially decided to opt for new build helicopters rather than upgrade existing airframes.
The new-build helicopter entered low-rate initial production (LRIP) in April 2005. The first of 22 new UH-60Ms was delivered in July 2006. Initial operational evaluation was successful and a decision on full-rate production of 1,227 helicopters was authorised in December 2007 with the award of a five-year contract. Under this contract, six UH-60M utility and 20 HH-60M combat rescue helicopters were ordered in March 2008.
In December 2007, the US Army ordered 11 LRIP upgrade UH60M. The UH-60M upgrade completed its maiden flight in August 2008. More than 950 aircraft are scheduled to be delivered by 2025.
XP Services and Genesys will provide an integrated cockpit solution complete with Genesys’ modernised avionics suite for the upgrade programme.
S-70A Black Hawk helicopter
The S-70A helicopter is the export version of the multimission UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter.
The S-70A Black Hawk helicopter is flown by a crew of three: the pilot and the copilot on the flight deck and one crew member in the cabin. The S-70A helicopter is equipped with a glass cockpit and digital avionics.
The pilot workload can be reduced by the digital automated flight computer system. An electronic flight information system provides primary pilotage and navigation displays for the aircrew.
The S-70 Black Hawk can carry 16 Hellfire missiles using the external stores support system.
The S-70 can mount 7.62mm or .50-calibre machine guns in its windows. US Army Black Hawks are fitted with the Goodrich AN/AVR-2B laser threat warning system.
The cabin provides accommodation for 11 fully equipped troops or four litters (stretcher patients) with a medical officer for medical evacuation missions.
The cabin is equipped with a ventilation and heating system. The S-70A can carry external loads up to 9,000lb on the cargo hook, for example, a 155mm howitzer. The main cabin can be cleared of troop seats for the transportation of cargo. Additional stores can be carried on the external stores support system.
The S-70A is equipped with a voice and data communications suite including VHF, UHF communications, an identification friend or foe transponder, secure voice communications, satellite communications, and an intercom system.
The S-70A is equipped with two General Electric turboshaft engines, type T700-GE-701C. US Army Blackhawks are being fitted with the latest version, the 701D, which is rated at 2,000shp.
The internal fuel tanks have a capacity of 1,360 litres. Auxiliary fuel can be carried with 1,400 litres in two internal fuel tanks and 1,740 litres externally.
UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter orders
In July 2006, Saudi Arabia requested 24 UH-60L helicopters. In June 2007, Columbia ordered 15 UH-60L helicopters. In June 2007, Bahrain became the first international customer for the UH-60M, with an order for nine helicopters for the Royal Bahraini Air Force. In June 2007, Brazil requested the foreign military sale (FMS) of six UH-60L helicopters. In November 2007, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) placed an order for ten S-70A helicopters.
In September 2008, Egypt requested the sale of four UH-60M helicopters and the UAE requested 14 UH-60M helicopters. In January 2010, the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency informed the US Congress about a possible FMS of 60 UH-60M helicopters to Taiwan.
In September 2010, the Swedish Defence Material Administration requested the sale of 15 UH-60M helicopters through the US government’s FMS programme. The first aircraft was delivered to the US Army in September 2011 and another seven by December that year. The final two helicopters were delivered by September 2012.
Thailand requested a sale of three UH-60M Black Hawk helicopters in July 2011 and signed a Letter of Offer and Acceptance (LOA) for two UH-60Ms in July 2012. In December 2011, Sikorsky and the Brunei Ministry of Defence signed a contract for 12 S-70i Black Hawk helicopters manufactured by Sikorsky’s Polish subsidiary PZL Mielec. The contract also includes an option for ten additional aircraft.
In June 2012, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency informed Congress about a possible FMS of 12 UH-60M helicopters to Qatar.
In July 2012, the US Army and US Navy placed a $8.5bn contract with Sikorsky to receive 653 Black Hawk and Sea Hawk helicopters by December 2017. The five-year contract also includes an option to acquire 263 additional aircraft.
Sikorsky signed a letter of intent with Wojskowe Zaklady Lotnicze NR 1 in September 2012. The agreement is in response to the Polish government’s decision to acquire 26 S-70i aircraft for the Polish Armed Forces. The government is expected to enact a tender for this purpose towards the end of 2012, with a final contract award in late 2013. Sikorsky plans to offer S-70i aircraft built in Poland under the contract.
A foreign military sale of 12 UH-60M helicopters to Tunisia for $700m was approved by the US government in July 2014.
The US government approved a FMS of two UH-60M Black Hawk helicopters to Croatia for $115m in October 2019.
Lithuania signed a $213m contract with the US government in November 2020 for a new UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter platform.
The UH-60V helicopters were delivered to the US Illinois Army National Guard in March 2022.
The US government approved a FMS of 40 UH-60M Black Hawk helicopters to Australia at $1.95bn in August 2022.
Sikorsky received a contract to produce 40 UH-60M Black Haws from the Australian government in February 2023.