UH-60M Black Hawk Replacements Get Fast Track
The Army’s plan to replace its existing Black Hawk helicopters with the latest version of the Sikorsky UH-60 cleared an important Pentagon hurdle, and Sikorsky Aircraft is moving forward with Low Rate Initial Production (LRIP) of 22 new UH-60Ms with authorization to build up to 40 new helicopters through fiscal year 2006. LRIP is the last phase in a defense procurement program before a full-rate production decision is made.
The “M” model is the latest version of the 25-year-old UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter program. Initially, the Army planned to remanufacture 1,217 UH-60A and L models, but the Army now plans to purchase new “M” model helicopters. The Black Hawk family of helicopters is expected to remain in service with U.S. forces until approximately 2025.
The UH-60M development program consists of a UH-60A, five UH-60L helicopters, a UH-60Q Medevac model and a new production UH-60M totaling eight airframes. Sikorsky has delivered three UH-60Ms to the Army for testing and is currently under contract to deliver five more.
The new helicopters will provide additional payload and range, advanced digital avionics, better handling qualities and situational awareness, active vibration control and improved survivability. The helicopter will come with new composite rotor blades, which provide more lift, and improved General Electric engines with more horsepower. Although this news was made official via an Acquisition Decision Memorandum, the Army has yet to finalize a contract for the helicopter orders so the cost was not available.
The Pentagon’s Defense Acquisition Board also authorized advanced procurement for the first lot of full-rate production UH-60M helicopters beginning in the 2007 fiscal year. A full-rate production decision to authorize more than 1,200 UH-60M aircraft is scheduled for 2007, and the Army plans to equip a combat unit with the UH-60M in early 2008. Sikorsky Aircraft has manufactured the Army Black Hawk since 1978.