Black Hawk over Afghanistan
Aviation History

Sikorsky UH-60/S-70 Black Hawk Family

In 1972, the Army put out a call for a Utility Tactical Transport System, or UTTAS, helicopter. After its experiences in the Vietnam War, the Army was looking for a machine that was better able to operate under fire than the Huey.

The Sikorsky S-70 was the answer to the Army’s request. It came with an armored cockpit, self-sealing fuel tanks, and a cabin box and landing gear that could absorb severe shocks.

The S-70 has a four-blade rotor, two engines, and several redundant operating systems that can keep the helicopter in the air even after suffering damage.

During the invasion of Grenada, the helicopter proved that it could operate even after suffering significant damage.

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The S-70 differed most noticeably in look from the Huey. The Army required the helicopter to be able to fit into a C-130 Hercules cargo plane with its rotors in place. Because of the plane’s low ceiling, the helicopter had to be long and low-set.

In December 1976, the Army decided to adopt the Sikorsky S-70 for its purposes, rather than the Boeing Vertol YUH-61A. It received the first Black Hawk helicopters in 1979. Source: Wikimedia

The S-70, or UH-60A, was replaced in 1989by the UH-60L, which had a more powerful engine and stronger outside cargo hooks. But both models could carry 11 fully equipped soldiers, in addition to a 3-person crew.

The S-70 is 64.8 feet, or 19.8 meters long, and 16.8 feet, or 5.1 meters, high. It weighs 10,649 pounds, or 4,830 kilograms, without cargo or crew. It can travel at a maximum speed of 182 miles, or 293 kilometers, per hour and can reach a height of 19,300 feet, or 5,883 meters.

During the Persian Gulf War in the early 1990s, almost half of the Army’s Black Hawk helicopters saw action, and only two were lost. During the Army’s mission in Somalia, however, it became clear that Black Hawks were vulnerable to rocket-propelled grenades.

The U.S. Navy adopted the version of the S-70 called the Seahawk as its multi-purpose helicopter. Source: Wikimedia

In 1983, the SH-60B Seahawk began serving as the Navy’s search-and-rescue and anti-submarine helicopter. The SH-60F, which was equipped with a dipping sonar, replaced the Sea King in the mid-1980s.

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The U.S. Coast Guard began using the HH-60J Jayhawk for search-and-rescue operations. The model comes equipped with several radars and a Forward Looking Infrared (FLIR) turret for night operations.

The U.S. Air Force uses the MH-60G Pave Hawk for special operations and the HH-60G for rescue missions.

The Air Force’s Pave Hawk is equipped with an FLIR turrent and can be refueled in flight. Source: Wikimedia

Sikorsky has signed contracts with militaries around the world, so various models of the S-70 are in use worldwide.

Because the Black Hawk helicopter is more expensive and more complicated to operate than the Huey, making it unsuitable for widespread civilian use. But it is clearly the preferred helicopter of the U.S. military.

Overall, more than, 2,400 S-70 helicopters are used for search-and-rescue missions, troop transport, maritime surveillance, and other support roles, making it the most popular U.S. military helicopter of the last 20 years.

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Rob V.
Rob V. founded Century-of-Flight.net in October of 2019. He holds commercial single and multi-engine instrument ratings, and is a licensed CFI / CFII for both single and multi-engine aircraft. Rob currently has 1,500+ hours of flight logged, 1,000 of which is dual-given as an instructor. Learn more about him in his full bio here.

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