Procurement: Only The Best Will Do


October 15, 2011: The Thai Army has ordered two American UH-60M Blackhawk helicopters, to replace two older UH-60s that were lost in accidents last July. Originally, Thailand wanted to buy three UH-60Ls. But that model went out of production four years ago, replaced by the more capable, and expensive, UH-60M. The Thais like the UH-60, but have never been able to buy as many as they wanted because of the expense.

The UH-60M features several improvements, including new rotor blades (more reliable, and provide 227 kg/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 $40 million each, will make the UH-60 viable into the 2020s.

Four years ago, the Thai Navy bought six American MH-60S naval helicopters. Called the Knighthawk, the MH-60S is based on the UH-60 Blackhawk, and the first navalized version of that, the SH-60B Seahawk. This was the first export sale of the MH-60S, which entered service nine years ago. Currently, the U.S. Navy is using over 200 of them.

The MH-60S was designed to replace existing 11 ton, 1960s era, CH-46D helicopters. The ten ton MH-60S is superior to the older CH-46D in most ways (load, range, speed, reliability), but is smaller, so it can use the landing pads on destroyers and frigates. The navalized versions of the UH-60 are more expensive because of anti-corrosion features (salt water rusts unprotected metal and damages other components), more powerful engines, folding blades, a hoist system, more advanced electronics and numerous other changes.





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