New Black Hawk Affirms the Future of Army Aviation

Article excerpt

The UH-60M Black Hawk, now being fielded at Fort Campbell, Ky., is a versatile machine that will perform assault, medevac, cargo, command-and-control, aerial sustainment and search-arid-rescue missions. CW4 Gene McNeill, currently test pilot and trainer on the aircraft at Sikorsky Aircraft, thinks the transition for Army pilots from the 25-year-old UH-60L model will be easy, taking only about 15 hours of flight time. "The Mike model will do everything the Lima will do," he says, "but the M will do it so much better."

The UH-60M contains state-of-the-art technology that will carry the Army through upcoming decades. The digital electronic systems of the new helicopter make it easier and safer to fly. The cockpit has multiple multifunctional screens, the displays of which can be switched from advisory information to maps, pilot instrumentation, or calculator function with the touch of a button. Calculations, such as fuel-burn rate, can be completed in seconds rather than minutes, so decisions can be made more quickly. One pilot can fly the Black Hawk while the copilot acts as the mission operator.

Embedded global positioning and inertial navigation systems give the pilot greater situational awareness; a digital moving map pinpoints the aircraft's relationship to the earth. Another advantage of the all-digital avionics suite is that the pilot can download flight and mission information from an office computer onto a two-gigabyte personal computer memory card, insert it into one of four slots and load it into the flight management system.

The new UH-60M is also equipped to hide from enemy fire. A threat invisibility system is programmed with the known capabilities of enemy as well as friendly weapon systems. Terrain data and enemies known to exist in the field can be plotted on the map by means of a grid location. The pilot can keep the helicopter masked below terrain; if it climbs too high, the system flashes red to warn that the aircraft is within range of enemy weapons.

A series of sensors located throughout the Black Hawk-the integrated vehicle health management system-continuously collects and processes data. With the push of a button, routine maintenance balancing adjustments can be easily diagnosed by computer if the helicopter rotates or vibrates; the system advises if a part, such as a transmission, is about to break. Another system in the new model reduces vibrations throughout the aircraft, reducing wear on the helicopter and its components and creating a more comfortable ride. In effect, the helicopter diagnoses itself.

The UH-60M's new seats increase the likelihood of surviving a crash and reduce back injuries caused by hard landings. …