The UH-60 Blackhawk is a multi-mission medium lift helicopter manufactured by Sikorsky, a Lockheed Martin Company.
The UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter has been operational in the US Army since 1978, and variants of the Blackhawk are operational or have been ordered by multiple 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.
The aircraft have logged over four million flying hours, including a diverse range of combat missions in Grenada, Panama, in the liberation of Kuwait, Somalia, Afghanistan, Iraq and numerous humanitarian and rescue missions including operations in Bosnia. The helicopters are manufactured at the Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation production facilities based in Stratford, Connecticut, USA. Licensed production of Blackhawk helicopters is also carried out in Japan and the Republic of Korea.
The primary mission of the Blackhawk 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.
More than 2,000 H-60 variants are in service with the US Military and more than 600 exported. The S-70A helicopter is the export version of the multi-mission Blackhawk developed by Sikorsky.
The UH-60s are designed to strict military standards and provide ruggedness, dependability, and versatility.
The Blackhawk 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 absorbing.
UH-60M Blackhawk upgrade programme
In April 2001, the US Army approved an upgrade programme for more than 1,500 Blackhawks 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 (OPEVAL) is underway 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 low-rate initial production (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. The UH-60M features new wide chord composite spar main rotor blades (which will provide 470lb more lift than the current UH-60L blade), strengthened fuselage and advanced infrared suppression.
The fly-by-wire glass cockpit has a digitised 1553 bus-based avionics suite with four Rockwell Collins multi-function displays, four-axis fully-coupled autopilot, two Canadian Marconi (CMC) electronic flight management systems, dual Honeywell embedded GPS inertial (EGI) navigation system, digital moving map and Goodrich integrated vehicle health management system (IHVMS).
The new General Electric T700-GE-701D engine (with full authority digital electronic control) is more powerful and provides additional lift during sling load operations.
The helicopter is flown by a crew of three: the pilot and the co-pilot at the flight deck and one crew member in the cabin. The Blackhawk helicopter is equipped with a glass cockpit and digital avionics.
In addition, customers may select a digital automated flight computer system (AFCS) to simplify pilot workload. An electronic flight information system (EFIS) provides primary pilotage and navigation displays for the aircrew.
UH-60 / S-70A Blackhawk weapons
The Blackhawk is qualified as a launch platform for the laser-guided Hellfire anti-armour missile. The Blackhawk can carry 16 Hellfire missiles using the external stores support system (ESSS). The ESSS has the capability of carrying a 10,000lb payload of missiles, rockets, cannons and electronic countermeasures pods. The helicopter can also accommodate additional missiles, supplies or personnel inside the cabin.
The S-70 can mount 7.62mm or .50-calibre machine guns in the windows.
The 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 (4,072kg) on the cargo hook – for example, a 155mm howitzer. The main cabin can be cleared of troop seats for transportation of cargo. Additional stores can be carried on the external stores support system.
The UH-60 is equipped with a voice and data communications suite including VHF, UHF communications, an identification friend or foe (IFF) 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 latest version, the 701D, which is rated at 2,000shp.
The internal fuel tanks have a capacity of 1,360l. Auxiliary fuel can be carried with 1,400l in two internal fuel tanks and 1,740l externally.
UH-60 / S-70A Blackhawk helicopter orders and deliveries
Saudi Arabia requested 24 UH-60L helicopters in July 2006, while Columbia ordered 15 UH-60L helicopters in June 2007. Bahrain became the first international customer for the UH-60M in June 2007, with an order for nine helicopters for the Royal Bahraini Air Force. In June 2007,
Brazil requested the FMS of six UH-60L helicopters. In November 2007, the United Arab Emirates placed an order for ten S-70A helicopters.
In September 2008, Egypt requested the sale of four UH-60M helicopters and United Arab Emirates (UAE) requested 14 UH-60M helicopters. In January 2010, US Defense Security Cooperation Agency informed 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 Foreign Military Sales programme. This was approved in May 2011.
Thailand requested a sale of three UH-60M Blackhawk helicopters in July 2011. In December 2011, Sikorsky and Brunei Ministry of Defence signed a contract for 12 S-70i Blackhawk helicopters. 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 Navy placed an $8.5bn contract with Sikorsky for 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 in response to the Polish Government’s decision to acquire 26 S-70i aircraft for the Polish Armed Forces.
In October 2016, Sikorsky completed the delivery of the 1000th unit of the UH-60M Black Hawk helicopter to the US Army.
Sikorsky received a five-year contract worth $3.8bn from the US Government for the delivery of 257 H-60 helicopters including the UH-60M and HH-60M MEDEVAC aircraft in June 2017. The contract includes an option 103 additional aircraft, which if exercised will increase the total contract value to $5.2bn. The deliveries are expected to be completed by 2022.
In July 2021, Sikorsky was awarded a four-year contract by the Brazilian Air Force to provide logistics support and sustainment of 16 UH-60L Black Hawk helicopters.