Soldiers from the Connecticut National Guard’s Charlie Company, 3rd Battalion, 142nd Aviation Regiment out of Windsor Locks, retrieved a new UH-60M Blackhawk Helicopter from Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst and delivered it to the Army Aviation Support Facility in Windsor Locks, Conn. April 28, 2022. The addition of this new airframe completes a conversion of the unit’s five helicopters from the legacy L- model to the most modern M-model. While the Army’s newest helicopter pilots come out of training well-versed on the M-model aircraft, the legacy pilots were presented with a hefty learning curve. To become more familiar with the new airframe, pilots familiar with the L-models attend a five-week training course and maintain their certifications with at least 96 hours of flight training every year, including 18 in a flight simulator.
According to U.S. Army Capt. Andrew Maher, commander of Charlie Company, most new aviators come out of the schoolhouse trained on this new M-model, so converting the fleet creates a seamless transition from training to operational environments. “Everyone loves [the new model],” said Maher. “The upgrades give us more situational awareness, reduce our workload, and allows us to complete more complex missions with less stress.”
The new helicopter comes equipped with several upgrades, including wider blades for more lift capacity, an auto-pilot feature, a more rigid frame, more crash and electromagnetic protection, more vibration absorption in the seats, a rotor break, and fully digital displays and navigation. The upgrade does more than just provide convenience, however. Since the conversion process began, the unit’s M-model craft have acquired no more than 100 total flight hours, a stark contrast to the more than 9,000 hours on the L-models which reduces the amount of maintenance required, allowing the unit to keep more helicopter in a ready-status should they be needed for a real-world mission.
To make room for the new helicopters, the old frames were transferred to other state’s National Guards, civilian organizations, and one was moved to the Theater Aviation Sustainment Maintenance Group (TASMG) in Groton. The UH-60 Blackhawk was first developed by Sikorsky in 1978 and has been the primary multi-mission rotary aircraft since. The helicopter was constructed at the Sikorsky plant in Stratford, Connecticut and outfitted with additional modifications at the U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Research, Development, and Engineering Center Flight Activity at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey.