Air Transportation: Black Hawk Upgrade


December 12, 2009: The U.S. Army has successfully tested a UH-60M helicopter equipped with fly-by-wire flight controls. This technology replaces mechanical linkages for flight controls, with electronic commands sent over wire. It is more reliable, and saves weight. It was only two years ago that the army finished testing the new version of the UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter, and began mass production. Over 900 will be produced and the army has already received over a hundred.

This M model is the new standard for the UH-60. The UH-60M features several improvements, including new rotor blades (more reliable, and provide 500 pounds of additional lift), an all electronic cockpit (putting all needed information on four full-color displays), an improved autopilot (which will fly the chopper if the pilot is injured and unable to), improved flight controls (making flying easier, especially in stressful situations), a stronger fuselage, more efficient navigation system, better infrared suppression (making it harder for heat seeking missiles to hit), and more powerful engines. The oldest model, the UH-60As, will continue to serve until the last of them is retired in 2025. By then, all UH-60s will be L or M models.

 The last major upgrade of the Black Hawk was in the late 1980s, when the UH-60L was introduced. The M version, which will cost about six million dollars each, will make the UH-60 viable into the 2020s. The 11 ton UH-60M was to be complemented by two new, smaller, helicopters, the 2.8 ton ARH-70 (a militarized Bell-407, which will most directly replace the elderly OH-58D scout helicopter), while the 3.6 ton UH-145 will supplement the UH-60 for transportation and other jobs, and replace many of the UH-1s now being phased out of reserve units. The ARH-70, which seemed like a slam-dunk, ran way over budget and got cancelled.





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