Procurement: Billions For Blackhawk M


December 18, 2007: The U.S. Department of Defense has ordered some 1,200 UH-60M helicopters, and expects to spend some $11 billion, over the next five years, on that purchase, plus technical services, maintenance and spare parts. The U.S. Army finished testing the UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter last Summer, and cleared the aircraft for mass production.

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. There are already sixteen in service, which were used for testing. 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 will 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.




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