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Quad A 2011: Black Hawk OPV gears up for first flight

21st April 2011 - 11:00 GMT | by The Shephard News Team


Sikorsky is seeking to undertake the maiden flight of its UH-60MU optionally-piloted vehicle (OPV) in the final quarter of this year, according to company officials.

Speaking to Shephard at the Quad A annual exposition in Nashville, Sikorsky programme manager for advanced programmes, James Kagdis said an airframe was ready for flight tesst now and described an 'opportunity to fly' by the end of 2011. 'We are waiting on the availability of the test asset and army support to take it into the air,' he said.

Essentially, Sikorsky has leveraged its fly-by-wire variant with an 'electronic spine' providing the backbone for an OPV version, Kagdis explained. This includes co-operation with L-3 Communications for integration of a Tactical Common Data Link for UAS compliance. Sikorsky has also developed its own man-pack ground control station (GCS) and Kagdis said this would also be compliant with the army's Universal GCS.

The UH-60MU fly-by-wire Black Hawk has already undergone 180 hours of testing in laboratory conditions as an OPV variant. Should it get the go-ahead, the maiden flight itself will be conducted at Sikorsky's test facility at West Palm Beach, Florida and will include the use of a safety pilot in the platform. Test flights in 2012 will evolve into unmanned approach, hook-up, flight and delivery of a cargo load.

'Cargo is our primary focus,' he explained while hinting at possible future missions such as casualty evacuation, reconnaissance and strike operations.

Jointly funded by Sikorsky and the US Army's Aviation and Missile Research Development and Engineering Center, the programme could be fielded in the 2015 timeframe, Kagdis explained. 'There are a lot of challenges in a project of this magnitude with a 23,000-pound vehicle', he said while describing how it must remain robust, survivable and operationally feasible form the user's perspective.

With some 2,000 Black Hawks in service with the US Army, Sikorsky is selling its OPV variant as a cost-saving solution with an existing maintenance and support infrastructure already in place, thus avoiding the need to procure a new airframe and associated equipment.

Earlier in the week, the US Army identified 'potential gaps' in its UAS operating concept regarding Vertical Take-Off and Landing capabilities with Col Robert Sova highlighting delivery for tactical cargo resupply' as an example of such a capability as well as surveillance/reconnaissance missions and the potential to 'get away from runways'.

The Shephard News Team


The Shephard News Team

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