Quad A 2017: Fresh life breathed into UH-60L
The US Army's programme to upgrade its legacy UH-60L Black Hawks with a new digital cockpit is proceeding apace, following the first flight of the prototype model in January.
Some 760 legacy UH-60L Black Hawks will undergo a major cockpit upgrade to UH-60V standard that will allow them to remain on duty alongside UH-60Ms into the 2030s and beyond.
On 19 January 2017, the Utility Helicopter Project Office, part of the Army's PEO Aviation, successfully completed the initial test flight of the first engineering development model (EDM), UH-60V.
Following final maintenance actions and acceptance test procedures, the rotorcraft was handed over to the Army Aviation Flight Test Directorate near Huntsville, Alabama, in mid-February for further system level developmental testing to ensure aircraft and software performance in accordance with requirements.
Meanwhile, the US Army Aviation & Missile Research Development & Engineering Center prototype integration facility in Huntsville is designing and developing technical data package kits.
Corpus Christi Army Depot (CCAD) in Texas will use these to produce additional EDM aircraft in preparation for low-rate initial production.
Five UH-60V EDMs will eventually support an initial operational test and evaluation programme in 2018. All 760 UH-60Vs will be remanufactured at CCAD.
Northrop Grumman is the digital cockpit supplier and integrator for the UH-60V programme, which replaces analogue systems in the UH-60L with new displays that will replicate UH-60M pilot-vehicle interfaces and provide interoperability. Northrop Grumman's design solution was previously flight tested on a modified UH-60L helicopter.
The system features a centralised processor with a partitioned, modular operational flight programme with integrated architecture that provides new capabilities through software-only solutions rather than hardware additions.
The architecture improves processing performance and reliability while minimising total life-cycle costs, and is smaller in size, lower in weight and requires less power than the legacy systems it replaces.
The next-generation avionics system is aligned with the Future Airborne Capability Environment standard and supports integration of COTS software and hardware, enabling rapid insertion of capabilities while reducing cost and risk for system integration and upgrades.
The UH-60V's advanced cockpit is also designed to comply with FAA and EASA Global Air Traffic Management requirements, facilitating flight operations in military and civilian airspace worldwide.
In addition to US Army active and reserve component users, the UH-60V will likely prove popular for FMS, and transfers to allies seeking UH-60M capability with much lower acquisition costs, such as NATO partners Croatia and Hungary.
Since the first Black Hawk entered US Army service in 1979, Sikorsky has produced over 4,000 H-60s, with many more expected for another decade at least.
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