Sikorsky’s H-60 Hawk family has become the backbone of the US Army and Navy’s helicopter force, with a number of fielded variants. The USAF’s HH-60 is well known for its medical evacuation (MEDEVAC) role, as well as its combat search and rescue functions. The US Army also operates dedicated MEDEVAC models. The UH-60Qs include a 6 patient litter system, on-board oxygen generation, medical suction system, and other advanced medical capabilities. They are complemented by more recent HH-60Ls, and the entire fleet will eventually be recapitalized using new HH-60M MEDEVAC models.
The HH-60M’s higher power rating might make them somewhat more useful in hot and/or high altitude conditions like Afghanistan. In that theater, H-60 helicopters have taken a back seat to larger machines like Boeing’s H-47 Chinooks, the USMC’s CH-53E Super Stallions, and Eurocopter’s Super Puma/Cougar series. In the mountainous altitudes around Tora Bora, for instance, the California Army National Guard’s 126th Medical Co. (Air Ambulance) reportedly had to use its UH-60Ls stripped of their heavy litter carousels. One area where usefulness can receive quick improvements across the entire fleet, however, involves surveillance and visualization.
FLIR for the MEDEVACs
Many UH-60Qs and early HH-60Ls carry FLIR Systems’ Star SAFIRE I stabilized surveillance turrets mounted in their nose, offering high magnification viewing and infrared sensors. New HH-60Ls have the AN/AAQ-22 Star SAFIRE II, with improved sensors and laser rangefinding/targeting options. Rotor and Wing reports that during one night mission in Afghanistan, an HH-60L crew was asked to use its turret to identify a target that was too indistinct for the systems on its escorting AH-64 Apache attack helicopter.
A program is underway to equip all Army MEDEVAC Black Hawks with Star SAFIRE II turrets. This will give them the ability to operate by day or night across a wider range of weather conditions, extend their search and rescue capabilities, and offer a tactical capability boost for their formations.
Contracts & Key Events
Aug 26/13: +12. Sikorsky in Stratford, CT received a $7 million firm-fixed-price modification to a multi-year contract. They’ll install FLIR Systems’ contractor-furnished Star SAFIRE II surveillance turrets on 12 Army HH-60 helicopters by Dec 31/13.
Work will be performed in Stratford, CT. This contract was a non-competitive acquisition, with 1 bid solicited and 1 bid received by US Army Contracting Command , Aviation in Redstone Arsenal, AL (W58RGZ-12-C-0008, PO 0092).
May 15/13: Talon. FLIR Systems, Inc. announces a 2-year, $81 million blanket purchase agreement from the US Army for the MEDEVAC Mission Sensor (MMS) configuration of FLIR’s 9-inch Talon product. The initial delivery was $19 million, and Talon MMS will be installed on the Army’s fielded and new (HH-60M) MEDEVAC Blackhawk helicopters.
Talon is a compact unit that benefits from continuing advances in surveillance devices over the last decade. It provides the same capabilities as the larger 15″ Star SAFIRE II, plus improved geolocation, digital video, and low-light options. Talon offers up to 6 simultaneous payloads: Continuous zoom 640 x 480 infrared camera, Color CCD and Low light CCD with 10x continuous zoom, Laser Pointer or Laser Illuminator, 20km Laser Range Finder, and Inertial Measurement Unit for location. Target geolocation and GeoLock can work with the helicopter’s own GPS/INS/EGS/ AHARS Systems for higher accuracy than IMU alone. For video, Talon provides NTSC or PAL analog video, and SMPTE 292M and DVI digital video for all channels.
Work under this award will be performed out of FLIR’s facility in Billerica, MA, with shipments under the initial delivery order expected to be complete by 2014. Sources: FLIR Systems release.
New sensor turret – Talon
May 22/12: FLIR Systems announces a $38 million contract from the US Army, to provide spare components for Star SAFIRE IIs installed on the Army’s HH-60s. The initial delivery order is $1.7 million. Work under this contract is expected to be performed out of FLIR’s facility in Wilsonville, OR, with deliveries expected to be completed within 5 years. Sources: FLIR release.
Sept 26/11: FLIR Systems, Inc. announces a $20.9 million delivery order from the U.S. Army for its Star SAFIRE II systems, to be deployed on US Army MEDEVAC UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. Work under this order will be performed out of FLIR’s facility in Wilsonville, OR, with deliveries expected to be completed within the next 12 months.
Jan 26/11: FLIR Systems, Inc. announces a $15.8 million delivery order for Star SAFIRE II systems to support the U.S. Army’s UH-60 MEDEVAC program. Work under this contract will be performed out of FLIR’s facilities in Wilsonville, OR, with deliveries expected to be completed within the next 12 months.
April 8/10: FLIR Systems, Inc. announces a $12.4 million delivery order for its Star SAFIRE II systems to support the U.S. Army’s UH-60 MEDEVAC program. Work under this contract will be performed at FLIR’s facilities in Wilsonville, OR, with deliveries expected to be completed within the next 12 months. The firm adds that:
“This order adds to the more than 200 Star SAFIRE systems already deployed on UH/HH-60 Medevac helicopters.”
Sept 21/09: FLIR Systems, Inc. announces a $15.4 million delivery order for its Star SAFIRE II systems to support the U.S. Army’s UH-60 MEDEVAC program. Work under this contract will be performed at FLIR’s facilities in Wilsonville, OR, with deliveries expected to be completed within the next 12 months.
Oct 20/08: FLIR Systems, Inc. announces a $28.9 million order from Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation for its Star SAFIRE II turrets, which will be installed on Army MEDEVAC Black Hawk helicopters. FLIR was asked for, but could not supply, further specifics.
Work will be performed at FLIR’s facilities in Wilsonville, OR, and deliveries on this order are expected to begin in 2010. Including previous orders, FLIR expects to deliver $52.7 million of systems through 2011 to this customer, amounting to over 170 systems in the Star SAFIRE product line for use on the US Army’s SAR/ MEDEVAC Black Hawk helicopters.
* Us Army (March 26/07) – How Technology is Saving Lives and Helping the Aviation Warfighter. Includes a very specific account of how the AN/AAQ-22 FLIR (not FUR, as in the article) system made a difference on one Afghan mission.