Sikorsky UH-60/S-70 Black Hawk Family
Sikorsky S-70 family of helicopters,
designated the H-60 in U.S. military use, is the most popular U.S.
military helicopter next to the Bell UH-1 or Huey and is gradually
replacing it in many military roles. The UH-60 Black Hawk has already
completely replaced the Huey in the U.S. Army as the primary troop
transport and is gradually replacing it in the Reserves and National
Guard. Variants of the S-70, with names like Seahawk, Jayhawk and Pave
Hawk, are also used by the U.S. Navy, Coast Guard and Air Force and are in
heavy use around the world. They serve in a wide range of transport and
support roles, including search and rescue, antisubmarine and maritime
surveillance, and special tasks. The Customs Service and the U.S. Drug
Enforcement Agency (DEA) also use the aircraft. It is the most popular
U.S. military helicopter produced in the last two decades, with more than
2,400 in use.
The Sikorsky Model S-70 was developed in
response to the Army's 1972 request for a Utility Tactical Transport
System (UTTAS) helicopter. The UTTAS design criteria were based upon U.S.
experience during Vietnam. In particular, the Army wanted a helicopter
with crew survivability features and engines, rotors, and transmission
designed to be better capable of taking damage than the Huey. Sikorsky
equipped the S-70 with a crashworthy cabin "box," an armour-plated cockpit,
self-sealing fuel tanks, and wheeled landing gear that could absorb heavy
vertical impacts. The S-70, unlike most Hueys, has two engines, either of
which can keep the helicopter in the air if the other fails. It also has
widely-separated redundant electronic and hydraulic systems. It has four
main rotor blades and a tail rotor that is tilted at an angle and
therefore provides some additional lift.
Perhaps the most unusual thing about the
S-70 is its shape. Unlike the Huey, it is long and low-set. This design
was dictated by the requirement that the helicopter be able to fit inside
a C-130 Hercules cargo plane without removing the rotors. Two of the craft
had to be capable of fitting inside a C-141 and six within a C-5 Galaxy.
The low ceiling of these aircraft required a helicopter that was wider and
squatter than a Huey.
The first S-70, designated the YUH-60A
by the Army, competed against the Boeing Vertol YUH-61A in 1975. It was
declared the winner of the UTTAS competition in December 1976, and entered
production soon after. The first production UH-60A Black Hawk was
delivered to the Army in 1979. By the time production of the A model ended
in October 1989, Sikorsky had produced 976 aircraft for the Army. The
UH-60A was succeeded by the UH-60L, equipped with more powerful engines, a
system for reducing the heat generated by the engines, and provision for a
stronger external cargo hook. Both versions carry eleven fully armed
troops and a crew of three. A dedicated medevac version was also
developed, equipped like most private medevac helicopters and capable of
carrying six patients.
The UH-60A has a rotor diameter of 53.7
feet (16.4 meters), is 64.8 feet (19.8 meters) long, and 16.8 feet (5.1
meters) high. It weighs 10,649 pounds (4,830 kilograms) when empty, has a
maximum weight of 20,250 pounds (9,185 kilograms), and carries a crew of
three. Two 1,543-shaft horsepower (1,150.6-kilowatt) GE T700-GE-700
turboshaft engines provide power. Its maximum speed is 182 miles per hour
(293 kilometres per hour), can reach an altitude of 19,300 feet (5,883
meters), and has a range of 373 miles (600 kilometres).
The UH-60 first saw combat during the
1983 U.S. invasion of the island of Grenada. According to the Army, it
proved it could survive significant damage and still fly. It also proved
quite capable eight years later during the Persian Gulf War, when nearly
half of the Army's total number of Black Hawks participated. Only two were
lost in combat. During the U.S. mission to Somalia in 1993, the Black Hawk
proved vulnerable to rocket-propelled grenades fired from rooftops and
several were lost.
The U.S. Navy also adopted a version of
the H-60 named Seahawk as a multi-role combat helicopter known as Light
Airborne Multi-Purpose System (LAMPS) III. The LAMPS III was intended to
perform anti-submarine and surface attack missions, as well as other
utility duties and search and rescue at sea. The SH-60B Seahawk entered
service in 1983. It was soon followed by the SH-60F, which replaced the
Sikorsky SH-3H Sea King in the anti-submarine role. The SH-60F is equipped
with a sonar that it lowers into the water on a cable (known as a "dipping
sonar" or "dunking sonar") to listen for submarines. The Navy also
developed a search and rescue version known as the HH-60H Rescue Hawk. The
Navy plans to modify the SH-60B and SH-60F to a common standard, known as
the SH-60R. It also intends to procure a cargo-carrying version known as
the CH-60S. In addition, a similar version has been proposed for Marine
MH-60 Pave Hawk helicopter a twin-engine, medium lift, utility,
and assault helicopter used by the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, and Coast
Guard as well as by many militaries worldwide.
The army's UH-60L Black Hawk can carry 11 soldiers or 2,600 pounds (1,170
kg) of cargo or sling load 9,000 pounds (4,050 kg) of cargo.
The air force received the MH-60G Pave Hawk in 1982 while the Coast Guard
received the HH-60J Jayhawk in 1992.
The U.S. Coast Guard also developed an
H-60 version for search and rescue operations that now is its primary
search and rescue aircraft. It is designated the HH-60J Jayhawk, has a
search/weather radar, and can be equipped with a Forward Looking Infrared
(FLIR) turret that provides excellent night vision. The U.S. Air Force
operates the MH-60G Pave Hawk special operations aircraft and the HH-60G
rescue aircraft. Although similar to the Army's UH-60L, they are equipped
with a FLIR turret for night operations and an in-flight refuelling probe,
allowing the helicopter to refuel in the air during long missions.
Sikorsky UH 60-L Black Hawk has a stronger external cargo hook than
Sikorsky has marketed the S-70 to
various militaries around the world. Spain, Japan, Australia, Greece,
Taiwan, Thailand and Turkey fly naval variants. Army variants are flown by
the Philippines, China, Taiwan, Jordan, Bahrain, Brunei, Columbia,
Australia, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, South Korea, Japan, Egypt, Mexico,
Morocco, Hong Kong, Argentina, Israel, the United Kingdom, Mexico,
Malaysia, Kuwait and Czechoslovakia, and others. Japan produces both
versions under license, and Turkey and South Korea co-produce them as
well. Civilian versions are also in operation, usually for VIP transport
or law enforcement purposes.
Although the Black Hawk is a highly
capable aircraft as a successor to the venerable Huey, it has some
drawbacks that make it unsuccessful commercially. In particular, it is
more expensive than the Huey and more complicated. It also initially
suffered from avionics problems in Europe, where German power lines
affected its electronics systems. Also, its two engines require more
maintenance than the Huey's single engine. Furthermore, for some civilian
roles and some foreign militaries, the S-70 is larger and more
sophisticated than necessary, with the Huey being more suited for several
missions. The Black Hawk and its derivatives have clearly become the most
popular U.S. military multipurpose helicopter in use today.