In early October the U.S. Army formally lifted the veil on the Lockheed Martin/Sikorsky UH-60V Black Hawk helicopter. The latest version of the medium utility transport rotorcraft represents a significant upgrade of the earlier UH-60L that prepares it for a future serving alongside the new-build UH-60M in a more connected battlefield.
The ceremony was held at Muir Army Air Field, Fort Indiantown Gap in Pennsylvania, where the state's National Guard operates the Eastern Army National Guard Aviation Training Site (EAATS). The facility trains UH-60 and CH-47 Chinook crews for regular Army, Army Reserve, National Guard, and other nations. Its Aviation Training Battalion-Utility (ATB-U) handles Black Hawk training and is the first unit to receive the UH-60V.
“It’s fitting that our location was chosen to begin UH-60 Victor training,” said Pennsylvania Adjutant General Maj. Gen. Mark Schindler “The EAATS is an accomplished organization, proving time and time again to be a force multiplier for all components of the U.S. Army and our multi-national partners, unmatched in the Army enterprise.”
As a modification of the UH-60L—itself a modernization of the original UH-60A—the UH-60V retains the original dynamic systems but has an all-new integrated avionics suite provided by Northrop Grumman. For the aircrew, the most obvious difference is the full “glass” cockpit that replaces the former analog dials. Behind the screens is an integrated computational system that provides advanced flight planning and mission capability, including a certified GPS RNAV database.
The UH-60V’s system is very similar to that installed in the in-production UH-60M, providing close compatibility between the two versions and streamlined training. The Army plans to standardize on the two variants in the medium-term, prior to the introduction of the next-generation FLRAA helicopter. Both Black Hawk variants employ open architecture systems that can be rapidly upgraded to meet emerging threats and requirements.
Heading the "Victor" program is the Army itself, with Redstone Defense Systems as lead contractor, working with a number of Army organizations centered on the Huntsville, Alabama, area. It is the first time that the Army has implemented a major upgrade program of its own.
“In order for us to bring capability onto this platform, it necessitated a significant investment both in dollars and time,” said Brig. Gen. Robert Barrie, the Army’s Program Officer-Aviation. “And because our threat is evolving faster than we are, and because our dollars are limited, it was absolutely essential that we find a way to bring capability onto our platforms more affordable and more rapidly, and that’s what this platform is the first of our ability to do.”
The first conversion took to the air on January 19, 2017, at Meridianville, Alabama, and the first was released to service with the Army in October 2020 after the initial operational test and evaluation had been completed. Work is being performed at the Corpus Christi Army Depot in Texas. Under current plans, the Army aims to have 760 UH-60Vs in service, alongside 1,375 UH-60Ms.
The first six UH-60Vs were delivered to the EAATS in July to allow the initial cadre of instructors to become acquainted with the type and to formulate a training syllabus in advance of the first student intake.