Flight testing for the UH-60M began in September 2003 at the Sikorsky Flight Development Center in West Palm Beach, Fla., and has since satisfied many significant milestones. Both aircraft #1 and #2 have met all objectives of the aggressive flight test development schedule, and overall performance, structural, handling quality and propulsion testing is 95 percent complete. The Structural Envelope expansion for the UH-60M was completed to 24,500 lbs in the self-deploy configuration, while engine operations to 20,000 ft and external loads to 8,000 of the 9,000 lb capacity have been realized. Night Vision Goggle (NVG) compatibility was successfully conducted.
Originally a UH-60A, aircraft #1 is the test vehicle for airframe issues such as performance and handling. Aircraft UH-60M #2, a former UH-60L, expanded the test repertoire to include structural, performance and avionics testing. Flight tests are focused on glass cockpit displays, the Embedded GPS Inertial navigation system, and qualifying the 701D engine and the Improved Hover Infra-Red Suppression System (IHIRSS) for compatibility with the UH-60M airframe. The aircraft will also be dedicated to qualifying the Automatic Flight Control System and 4-axis fully-coupled autopilot improvements that are key to the M-model upgrade.
"Our goal is full spectrum dominance," said Paul Martin, Senior Vice President, Government and Advanced Development Programs. "The UH-60M will be the most powerful, maneuverable and survivable BLACK HAWK ever built.".
There are presently eight BLACK HAWKs in the development program-a UH-60A, five UH-60L models, and a UH-60Q medevac variant as well as a new production UH-60M. After completion of the first eight aircraft, work on the low rate initial production UH-60M aircraft will begin in 2005 and full rate production may eventually increase to a maximum of 90 existing aircraft inducted per year by 2012.
The U.S. Army's aviation modernization plan calls for improvements to the UH-60 BLACK HAWK that will position it as the service-s primary utility helicopter for decades to come. The Army could decide to upgrade up to 1,200 existing UH-60A and UH-60L aircraft and purchase 300 new production BLACK HAWKs that together will provide greater capabilities, a larger payload and lower maintenance costs than current UH-60A and UH-60L models. The work is expected to span 25 years.
The ruggedness and survivability of the BLACK HAWK, combined with its multi-mission flexibility, have made it the world's standard for medium-lift utility helicopters. Sikorsky has delivered more than 2,500 HAWK family helicopters since 1978 and the aircraft have logged more than five million flying hours.
Sikorsky has offered 48 UH-60M BLACK HAWK aircraft and twenty years of support services for the Australian Project Air 9000 Helicopter Master Program contract, which is focused on enhancing the capability of the Australian Defence Forces' rotary wing fleet. Twelve Sikorsky UH-60Ms will be new-build aircraft, while the remaining 36 will be remanufactured from the Australian Army's current S-70A-9 BLACK HAWKs.
More than 2,000 H-60 BLACK HAWK and H-60 variants are flown by all five U.S. military services. More than 600 international S-70 variants, including SEAHAWK naval derivatives, are serving 25 international customers.
Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation, a subsidiary of United Technologies Corporation (NYSE:UTX), of Hartford, Conn, is a world leader in the design, manufacture and service of advanced helicopters for commercial, industrial and military uses.