A UH-60V Black Hawk hovers during a demonstration flight at the Huntsville, Al. International Airport July 13.
A UH-60V Black Hawk hovers during a demonstration flight at the Huntsville, Al. International Airport July 13.

US Army National Guard to Get First UH-60V Black Hawk Helicopters This Month

A U.S. Army National Guard unit is set to get the first Victor-model Black Hawk helicopters this month. The UH-60V converts a Lima-model Black Hawk from an analog cockpit to a digital one, intended to better match the capability of a Mike-model. The UH-60V will have a modern digital cockpit, increasing a pilot’s situational awareness while reducing the pilot work load, resulting in a more capable and safer aviation platform. By re-capitalizing the current legacy fleet, the U.S. Army will be able to deliver the UH-60V with UH-60M like capabilities for significantly less than the price of a new aircraft. The upgraded helicopter is the first aircraft to implement open architecture, a critical element of the Future Vertical Lift Ecosystem.

Redstone Defense Systems won an Army contract to take Northrop Grumman’s cockpit design and integrate the technology into V-model prototypes in spring 2014. Northrop Grumman provides the Integrated Avionics Suite for the UH-60V, which modernizes the U.S. Army’s UH-60L Black Hawk helicopters with a digital, open architecture integrated glass cockpit, including an integrated computational system, visual display system and Control Display Units. This replaces the analog gauges in UH-60L helicopters with an integrated system that provides one of the most advanced avionics systems in the U.S. Army. Three prototypes spent more than two years in the Prototype Integration Facility at Redstone undergoing integration.

Northrop Grumman’s digital cockpit will keep the U.S. Army’s legacy Black Hawk aircraft in the fight for decades to come. The system recently completed initial operational test and evaluation. (Photo courtesy of the U.S. Army)

The U.S. Army partnered with Corpus Christi Army Depot, Texas, to convert L-models into new V-models at a rate of 48 aircraft per year as it would take 15 years for the service to produce all 760 aircraft. The Army has been looking at ways to speed that up. But at the same time, the U.S. Army has been slowed with numerous software and reliability challenges found in tests. Despite the trouble, it did not affect the overall schedule of the program. The software issues have been fixed through a new software baseline and, for now, the Army will fly the aircraft under visual meteorological conditions rules where flight is permitted when there is enough visibility to see terrain and other aircraft.

The U.S. Army National Guard is getting 100 aircraft and Humvees in the fiscal year 2020 and 300 in 2021-2024 as part of the Army’s modernization efforts. Details of the increased capabilities for the National Guard include: UH-60M production for Army National Guard units is ongoing, with 64 aircraft programmed for fiscal 2020 and 172 for 2021-2024 and 23 UH-60V aircraft for 2020 and 132 for 2021-2024. The 335,500 Soldiers that make up the Army National Guard comprise approximately 39 percent of the Army’s force in overseas operations. The National Guard also plays a critical role in protecting the homeland by providing a unified, rapid response during national emergencies and disasters such as hurricanes or tropical storms, floods, winter storms, fires and other severe weather.

AMRDEC’s Prototype Integration Facility assisted the Utility Helicopter Project Management Office in developing and qualifying the UH-60V aircraft. The UH-60V features a digital cockpit that updates the legacy analog gauges. (Photo courtesy of U.S. Army)