It has become known that our defenders are already using the legendary UH-60 / S-70A Black Hawk multi-purpose helicopter. Let’s get to know it in more detail.
It is said that the best way to fight tanks is to fight them. This truth is also true for airplanes and helicopters. Nowadays, helicopters are an integral part of any army, a powerful and versatile weapon.
Modern helicopters perform a wide variety of combat missions. These include escorting, landing and providing fire support for troops, transporting personnel, cargo and military equipment, conducting aerial reconnaissance, electronic warfare, patrolling, evacuation and the most discussed function – fighting tanks and other armored and protected targets. A helicopter is a very versatile machine.
It is logical to assume that the enemy will use its helicopters and UAVs for similar purposes, and these helicopters and UAVs must be dealt with somehow. Of course, the presence of MANPADS systems in infantry units and a echeloned air defense system are good things, but they are not a panacea for attacks by modern helicopters.
By the way, the Americans were the first to think about helicopter combat, as they had a large and very diverse helicopter fleet and had accumulated enormous combat experience in their use. The American army has a lot of helicopters and they perform various tasks and have different purposes.
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Is the UH-60 Black Hawk already in Ukraine?
Prior to the full-scale Russian invasion on February 24, 2022, the helicopter fleet of the Ukrainian army and law enforcement agencies consisted mainly of Soviet Mi-24, Mi-8, and Mi-2 helicopters. The Ministry of Internal Affairs also received deliveries of French Airbus helicopters of the H225, H145, and H125 models.
Already during the Great War, Ukraine received Mi-17 helicopters from the United States, which were intended for the Afghan army, and Sea King helicopters in a search and rescue version from the United Kingdom. There were also rumors of possible deliveries of CH-47 Chinook heavy military transport helicopters and AH-64 Apache attack helicopters.
Multifunctional UH-60 Black Hawk has not been on the agenda for the last year, but on February 21, 2023, it was suddenly “highlighted” by the by the Defence Intelligence of Ukraine. The official DIU information resources published a post with photos showing reconnaissance pilots against the backdrop of a Black Hawk with Ukrainian insignia.
The Black Hawk in #Ukraine: the Ukrainian Military Intelligence (GUR) Aviation forces have revealed a new helicopter type in service- at least one Sikorsky UH-60A.
By the livery, this appears to be an ex-US Army helicopter refurbished and upgraded by Ace Aeronautics, LLC. pic.twitter.com/eDzsEcQvRq
— 🇺🇦 Ukraine Weapons Tracker (@UAWeapons) February 21, 2023
So, let’s not delay long and get acquainted with this legendary helicopter.
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History of the UH-60 / S-70A Black Hawk
In 1965, the war in Vietnam was still gaining momentum, and the UH-1 helicopter had yet to gain worldwide popularity. But even then, the U.S. military began looking for a suitable replacement for the Iroquois.
In late 1965, the Department of Defense began work on the UTTAS (Utility Tactical Transport Aircraft System) project. At first, the pace of work was slow: on the one hand, the existing UH-1 helicopters still met the military’s requirements, and on the other hand, the lessons of the Vietnam War often forced adjustments to the requirements for the new machine.
It was within the framework of this project that in 1968 the development of the UH-60A helicopter began in accordance with the requirements of the program for the creation of a multi-purpose tactical transport helicopter. The Pentagon awarded contracts to Bell, Boeing-Vertol, Lockheed and Sikorsky for preliminary development of a multi-purpose tactical transport helicopter designed for airborne operations and supply on the battlefield. The helicopter was to replace the Bell UH-1 multipurpose helicopters in service with the Army and the Boeing-Vertol CH-46 Sea Knight transport helicopters used by the Marine Corps. In 1971, the UTTAS helicopter development program was approved, which formulated the following requirements for the helicopter: the ability to transport a military unit of 11-15 people, a crew of three, a power plant based on two engines, the ability to transport the helicopter without disassembly on Lockheed C-130 and C-141 aircraft.
In 1972, the Pentagon issued technical specifications and performance requirements for the UTTAS helicopter to nine helicopter companies and set out the main stages of the helicopter development program. The program to produce 1,100 helicopters, which was the Army’s largest helicopter program at the time, was expected to be completed by 1985, with a price per helicopter ranging from $2 million to $5.8 million.
Out of nine companies that submitted designs for the UTTAS helicopter, the US Department of Defense selected Boeing-Vertol and Sikorsky to develop prototype helicopters. The contracts provided for the construction of three helicopters for flight testing and one helicopter for static testing from each company. After the final selection of the manufacturer, five more helicopters were to be built, so that all eight helicopters would participate in operational testing.
In mid-1972, the Army awarded Sikorsky a $61 million contract to produce three experimental helicopters for flight testing and one for ground testing. A similar contract was awarded to Boeing-Vertol. In 1973, Sikorsky’s UTTAS helicopter was designated the S-70 and the UH-60A designation for the Army. Under the UTTAS program, Sikorsky and Boeing-Vertol developed and built the YUH-60 and YUH-61 test helicopters. The YUH-60 helicopter made its first flight on October 17, 1974. After completing evaluation tests and comparative analysis in 1976, the Pentagon selected Sikorsky as the winner of the UTTAS program and awarded it a $83.4 million contract to produce the first UH-60As.
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Three generations of Black Hawks
The main advantages of the Sikorsky UH-60A helicopter that led to the victory in the competition were lower technical risks and lower operating costs over the estimated 20-year service life.
The UH-60A is a basic version equipped with T700-GE-700 engines (1500 hp). The helicopter is built according to the classical single-propeller design with a four-blade rotor. The rotor blades, made of titanium and composites, are capable of withstanding a 23 mm caliber projectile hit. The main strength element of the fuselage structure is the so-called box, which is the ceiling and floor of the cockpit connected by powerful frames. This structure, made of steel and titanium (with aluminum cladding), provides high strength, which is especially important during a hard landing. The sides of the cockpit and partially the floor are protected by Kevlar plates. The crew and troop seats are armored and the hydraulic system is duplicated, which significantly increases the helicopter’s survivability. The helicopter is equipped with an onboard electronic warfare system, including a radar warning station, an active thermal jammer station, and devices for ejecting heat traps and radar reflectors.
The UH-60L is a modified version produced since 1989. It features new T700-GE-701C engines (1900 hp) with a digital control system, improved cockpit equipment, and a payload capacity increased from 3600 to 4100 kg. The third modification of the UH-60M has been in production since 2006. It was equipped with T700-GE-701D engines (2000 hp), fully digital avionics, and a new central computer. The payload has also been increased to 4500 kg.
The S-70i is an export variant of the UH-60M that lacks some of the standard U.S. military equipment (this allows helicopters to be exported without special permission from the U.S. Congress). It has been produced since 2010 at a plant in Poland (Melec). It is said that this version of the helicopter is used by our Special Forces.
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Special modifications of the UH-60 Black Hawk
Several special versions of the UH-60 Black Hawk have been produced throughout its production and operation.
- EH-60A is an electronic warfare helicopter equipped with the appropriate equipment
- EH-60C and EH-60L are airborne command posts with additional radio equipment.
- UH-60Q, HH-60L and HH-60M are medical evacuation modifications based on the UH-60A, UH-60L and UH-60M, respectively.
- MH-60A is a variant for Special Forces, with a FUR infrared station, expanded radio and electronic warfare equipment.
- MH-60K is a modification for special forces with an infrared station and terrain tracking radar, as well as T700-GE-701C engines. It was introduced in 1986.
- The MH-60L is an analog of the MH-60A, but based on the UH-60L VH-60N “White Hawk” – a variant for serving the US President, based on the UH-60A model. Since these helicopters are operated by the Marine Corps, they received the T700-GE-401C navy modification engines (as on the SH-60B Sea Hawk deck-mounted helicopters).
- AH-60L “Arpia” is an attack helicopter produced for Colombia. It is armed with an underfuselage mount with a 20-mm cannon, as well as various types of missiles, and has appropriate sighting equipment.
- UH-60J and UH-60JA are modifications produced under license by Mitsubishi in Japan. The former is a search and rescue aircraft designed for the Air Force and Navy, while the latter is intended for the transportation of army units.
- UH-60P – a variant built under license in South Korea (about 150 units). It is based on the UH-60L, but has some improvements.
Numerous modifications are produced for export under the S-70A designation with corresponding numerical indices – from S-70A-1 (for Saudi Arabia) to S-70A-50 (for Israel).
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Combat experience of the Black Hawks
The UH-60 / S-70A Blackhawk made its combat debut on October 8, 1983, when it landed in Grenada. Helicopters of this type from the 82nd Airborne Division took part in the operation. Experience has shown that the UH-60A is a reliable and durable design. One of the machines of this type received 47 hits from small-caliber weapons (7.62 mm), but returned safely to the base. Another Blackhawk had its fuel tanks punctured in five places – but the leaks were noticed only the next day!
Not a single aircraft was lost during this operation. The same was true during the invasion of Panama in December 1989, which also involved UH-60As of the 82nd Division. Here, Blackhawks were used to land troops who captured key infrastructure. The Blackhawks were used on a truly massive scale during Operation Desert Storm in February 1991. Before it began, the Americans had concentrated more than 400 helicopters of this type in Saudi Arabia, both conventional UH-60s and special forces MH-60s. 300 of them simultaneously participated in one combat operation – the landing of the 101st Air Assault Division on February 24. Blackhawks were also used for other operations, in particular, MH-60s were used to land and evacuate special forces groups. The losses of Blackhawks during Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm were minimal and amounted to only six aircraft, with four killed in flight incidents and only two killed by enemy fire.
To be fair, there have been failures in the history of the UH-60. The most famous is the operation on October 3-4, 1993 in Mogadishu (Somalia), which cost the Americans three helicopters of this type.
In 1994, American troops landed in Haiti to end the civil war and prevent a humanitarian catastrophe. In this operation, UH-60L helicopters transported soldiers of the 10th Mountain Division from the aircraft carriers America and Dwight Eisenhower.
Since December 1995, Blackhawks have served with UN and NATO forces in the former Yugoslavia. Since the beginning of the global war on terror in 2001, these helicopters have been an indispensable part of all operations, including the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The Iraqi campaign of 2003 alone cost the Americans 24 Black Hawks (seven were combat losses, the rest were lost in accidents and disasters).
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Construction of the UH-60 Black Hawk
The UH-60 Blackhawk is a single-propeller helicopter with a tail rotor, two turboprop engines and a three-pillar landing gear.
Fuselage made of light alloys
The fuselage of the helicopter is all-metal, semi-monocoque, made of light alloys. Composite materials based on fiberglass and Kevlar are used in the construction of the cockpit door, canopy, fairings and engine cowl. Entrance to the two-seat crew compartment is through the side door that folds upward. The crew seats are armored. The cargo compartment measures 4.95×2.21×1.87 m and has a volume of 11.6 m³ and has sliding cargo doors measuring 1.5×1.75 m on both sides. The cabin can accommodate 10 paratroopers with weapons or 6 wounded on stretchers. The rear part of the fuselage extends into a monocoque tail beam with an upwardly bent end beam of asymmetrical profile, to which the stabilizer and steering propeller are attached.
The stabilizer is steerable, straight, with a span of 4.37 m. The angle of installation is changed using a control system that receives signals about airspeed, angular velocity and lateral acceleration. The tail beam can be folded for transportation and parking. The fuselage has an anti-shock structure capable of withstanding a load equal to 20g in case of a frontal and 10g in case of a vertical impact. A 270 kg lifting capacity rescue winch with a 69 m long cable is installed, with a load hook designed for a force of 3630 kg.
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The three-point landing gear does not fold during flight. It has one wheel on each leg. The main legs are lever-type and have two-chamber shock absorbers. The pneumatic-hydraulic shock absorption system ensures the absorption of impact energy with a load of 40 g without the fuselage touching the ground. The landing gear track is 2.7 m, the base is 8.83 m. The dimensions of the pneumatic wheels of the main strut are 660×254 mm, pressure 0.88-0.93 MPa, and the rear strut is 380×152 mm, pressure 0.6 MPa.
The main rotor is a four-blade propeller with hinged blades. The sleeve is made of titanium alloy and has elastomeric bearings and dampers that do not require lubrication. This allows to reduce the amount of maintenance work on the screws by 60%. The blades are rectangular in plan, have oval spars made of titanium alloy, a tail section with Nomex honeycomb filler, a trailing edge and a comber part of the blade made of graphite-based composite materials, a fiberglass skin, and fiberglass counterweights along the blade. The blade base has a titanium overlay, and the blade tip is made of Kevlar. The blades are designed according to the principle of safe construction and can withstand the impact of 23 mm caliber projectiles.
There is a special electric anti-icing system for the blades and self-adjusting pendulum dampers on the hub. A main rotor brake is also installed.
The propeller is a four-blade, 3.35 m in diameter, with hingeless blade attachment. Together with the end beam, it is tilted sideways by an angle of 20° to create a vertical thrust component and increase the centering range. The hub consists of two cross-shaped beams. The blades are rectangular in shape and are made of a composite graphite-epoxy material. The blade length is 0.244 m. These blades are also equipped with an electric anti-icing system.
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Powerplant UH-60 Black Hawk
The UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter is equipped with a power plant consisting of two General Electric T700-GE-701C turbofan gas engines. Each of these engines has an output of about 2000 hp, which provides the helicopter with sufficient power to perform a variety of tasks, including cargo and passenger transportation, search and rescue, fire support, and much more.
The engines are located in nacelles on both sides of the pylon. The system was tested in combat operation in Vietnam.
The modular design of the transmission facilitates maintenance. The main gearbox is able to operate for another 30 minutes after the end of lubrication and will not jam.
Internal fuel tanks have a capacity of 1360 liters. Auxiliary fuel can be transported in two 1400-liter internal fuel tanks and a 1740-liter external fuel tank.
The in-flight refueling boom is made entirely of composite materials and can be extended beyond the rotation plane of the main rotor in 20 seconds. The refueling capacity is 1135 l/min at a pressure of 0.33 MPa. This allows the helicopter to refuel quickly and continue its mission.
The helicopter is operated by a three-person crew: a pilot and co-pilot in the cockpit and one crew member in the crew compartment.
The Black Hawk helicopter is equipped with digital avionics. To reduce the workload on the pilot, the helicopter can be equipped with a digital automated flight system (AFCS), which provides primary flight and navigation display for the crew.
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Black Hawk communications equipment
The UH-60 is equipped with many means of communication and communication. It has a voice and data communications system, including VHF and UHF communications, and a friend-or-foe identification transponder. The Blackhawk has secure voice communication, satellite communication, and an internal communication system between crew members and troops. It is also worth mentioning a covert communication system of decimeter, meter and short-wave range, radio navigation equipment, a recognition system and radio beacons.
The main elements of the navigation system are a Doppler radar and an inertial navigation system, and it is possible to install a satellite positioning system. Crew members wear night vision goggles. The equipment provided for protection includes an ARP-39 radar radiation receiver, a tracer and infrared reflector dispersal machine.
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Cargo compartment of the Black Hawk helicopter
The cargo compartment can accommodate 11 fully equipped military personnel or four patients on a stretcher with a medical officer for medical evacuation missions.
The compartment is equipped with a ventilation and heating system. The Blackhawk can carry external loads of up to 9,000 pounds (4,072 kg) on a cargo hook, such as a 155-mm howitzer. The main part of the compartment can be freed from the landing gear for cargo transportation. Additional storage can be placed in the external storage support system.
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UH-60 / S-70A Black Hawk armament
The UH-60 / S-70A Black Hawk is qualified as a launch platform for the Hellfire laser-guided anti-armor missile. The American helicopter can carry 16 Hellfire missiles with the help of an external storage support system. ESSS storage is located on the sides of the helicopter. Thanks to these suspensions, it has the ability to carry 10,000 pounds (4,500 kg) of shells, missiles, guns and electronic countermeasures. The helicopter can also accommodate additional missiles, supplies or personnel in the cargo compartment. It is also possible to install FIM-92 Stinger air-to-air missiles on an external suspension.
The helicopter can be armed with two machine guns of 7.62 or 12.7 mm caliber.
“The US Army’s Black Hawks are equipped with the Goodrich AN/AVR-2B laser threat warning system.
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Technical characteristics of the UH-60 Black Hawk
- power plant: 2 × General Electric T700-401
- takeoff power: 1285 kW
- diameter of the main rotor: 16,36 м
- length of the fuselage with refueling boom: 17,38 м
- height of the helicopter: 5,13 м
- take-off weight: 9980 kg
- weight of an empty helicopter: 5735 kg
- top speed: 268 km/h
- cruising speed: 237 km/h
- static ceiling: 3170 м
- dynamic ceiling: 5790 м
- flight range: 600 km
- overrun range: 2220 km.
The UH-60A Black Hawk helicopter depicted in the DIU photo has an atypical black and blue livery for the Armed Forces, which for some reason was not repainted, but only had Ukrainian insignia applied to it. This suggests that the helicopter could have been purchased on the civilian market.
NMFTE analysts managed to find a helicopter with a similar livery that belonged to Ace Aeronautics, a company that specializes in modernizing cockpits for transport aircraft. In March 2022, the same helicopter was demonstrated in combat configuration with an installed set of weapons at the International Helicopter Association exhibition in Dallas.
If it is the same helicopter, then there is no need to talk about any batch or serial deliveries. But on the other hand, if they managed to buy one, why not buy several more in the same way? In addition, it is not known how many of these helicopters Ace Aeronautics had/has, because it is a common practice in the world for private companies to buy up decommissioned military equipment for further modernization and resale.
I am confident that such a reliable and protected helicopter is very much needed by our defenders. We are sincerely grateful to our Western partners, in particular, the United States, for their support and provision of modern military equipment.
We believe in our defenders. The invaders will not escape from retribution. Death to the enemies! Glory to the Armed Forces! Glory to Ukraine!
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