Aviators, crewmembers, and support personnel of the 106th Aviation Regiment, Illinois Army National Guard, are here operationally testing the UH–60V Blackhawk helicopter while preparing for an upcoming deployment. As the newest helicopter introduced into the Army’s inventory, the UH60-V began fielding to the 106th during 2021 following the unit’s selection as the U.S. Army’s first unit equipped. “Victor” model testing completes a 24-month process from conception to reality for the Illinois Guard unit. The helicopter test is the first time several members of the unit have seen or worked with each other, flying 192 hours during four weeks. The 106th Aviation Regiment has facilities in Kankakee and Decatur, Illinois.
“Transitioning the Illinois fleet from analog to digital — learning the new components and systems — I enjoyed the challenge of learning something new that will provide a new capability to Soldiers and the unit. The cohesion from different facilities, focusing on success, has been rewarding,” said Staff Sgt. John Bahena, an Avionics Technician from Waukegan, Illinois.
Adams, with the Aviation Test Directorate of the Fort Hood, Texas-based U.S. Army Operational Test Command said, “The data collected during testing will support an independent evaluation by the U.S. Army Test and Evaluation Command’s Army Evaluation Center at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland. Their training provides an opportunity to improve unit readiness; and the user-level feedback the operators provide is critical for the Army’s decision whether or not to initiate full-rate production,”
Chief Warrant Officer 3 Brennon Links, a Maintenance Test Pilot (MTP) from Mulberry Grove, Illinois, said, “Being a part of the first unit fielding for the Army. The 60V is a better version of what I like and am used to. Being an MTP, if I ever had a problem, I could reach out to the large UH–60 community for answers. However, being the only Victor model unit, we’ve had to figure out a lot of issues on our own. The 60V provides Lima-model safety, reliability, and trustworthiness, only better.”
The UH-60V Black Hawk is a retrofit of the UH-60L upgraded with the Northrop Grumman’s ‘digital cockpit’ suite and OpenLift architecture, has received official certification to fly in all conditions. The UH-60V program is designed to retrofit the L-model Black Hawks with capability comparable to the UH-60M, with the OpenLift-powered architecture enabling more rapid integration of new avionics capabilities. The Army previously noted the 1st Battalion of the 106th Aviation Regiment will be the first tactical unit to receive UH-60Vs, with fielding set to be completed by the end of fiscal year 2022. The UH-60V program is expected to include converting 760 total UH-60L model aircraft to new, modernized configuration
As the Army’s only independent operational tester, OTC tests Army, joint, and multi-service warfighting systems in realistic operational environments, using typical Soldiers to determine whether the systems are effective, suitable, and survivable. OTC is required by public law to test major systems before they are fielded to its ultimate customer — the American Soldier. The Aviation Test Directorate at West Fort Hood, Texas, plans and conducts operational tests and reports on manned and unmanned aviation-related equipment to include attack, reconnaissance, cargo and lift helicopters, fixed wing aircraft, tactical trainers, ground support equipment, and aviation countermeasure systems.