Sikorsky’s UH-60M Upgrade Blackhawk Helicopter Achieves First Flight

Sikorsky's UH-60M 'MU-1' #05-20016 (?) upgrade aircraft conducts a flawless first flight at their West Palm Beach facility in Florida. Pilot Mike Skaggs went into forward and sideward flight up to 50 knots during the 67-minute test flight. 8/29/08
Photo: Sikorsky / Steven Kaeter

8/29/2008 - WEST PALM BEACH, FL – Sikorsky Aircraft Corp. today successfully completed the first flight of its UH-60M Upgrade Blackhawk helicopter. The UH-60M Upgrade is currently the only fly-by-wire rotary wing aircraft in flight test development within the Department of the Army.

In a test flight that lasted approximately 60 minutes, Sikorsky Chief Test Pilots Mike Skaggs and Steve Silder maneuvered the aircraft through a variety of exercises including hover, forward flight, and a hover turn. The test flight was conducted at Sikorsky’s West Palm Beach facility in Florida.

Sikorsky President Jeffrey P. Pino said today’s milestone represents a major step forward in the company’s continuing efforts to provide the U.S. military with superior technology.

“The UH-60M Upgrade will reduce pilot workload, increase lift, offer better protection and enhance survivability,” said Pino. “The next generation of BLACK HAWK helicopters is ideally suited for its mission and will provide a safer, more responsive, deployable, versatile and effective weapon system for the Army.”

U.S. Army Col. L. Neil Thurgood, Utility Helicopter Project Manager for the U.S. PEO Aviation office, said, ”Today's first flight of the UH-60M Upgrade aircraft, with fly-by-wire technology represents the next step in providing the U.S. military the best capability to execute its mission. This aircraft contains dramatic technological advances, yet retains and improves on the proven design of the world’s most capable and robust utility helicopter.”

Col. Thurgood added, “The U.S. Army Utility Helicopters Project Office and Sikorsky Aircraft remain committed to the right technologies, equipment and support infrastructure to empower our most important customer, the soldier. The UH-60M Upgrade demonstrates the balance Sikorsky and the U.S. Army have applied to address both current and future needs. Today's achievement is the result of dedicated effort and hard work by the entire Upgrade Program Team.”

The UH-60M BLACK HAWK has become an integral part of the U.S. Army’s command and control system, providing brigade commanders with real time digital situational awareness and command and control options. UH-60M Upgrade crews will benefit from a new standard of protection resulting from reduced pilot workload through the fly-by-wire system, and improved pilot situational awareness and aircraft handling qualities for more precise control in degraded visual environments.

Among the innovative technologies the UH-60M Upgrade BLACK HAWK helicopter employs are:

  • Fly-by-wire flight control system that incorporates “active stick” technology and dual channel – triple redundant flight control computers
  • Glass cockpit which incorporates the Common Avionics Architecture System (CAAS)
  • Fully authorized digital engine control (FADEC)

Fly-by-wire flight control systems electronically link the controls inside the cockpit with the exterior actuators, the movement of which enable the aircraft to maneuver where and how the pilot intends. Eliminating the traditional mechanical linkage saves weight, reduces maintenance costs, adds capability and improves performance.

Key suppliers for the UH-60M Upgrade helicopter are:

  • General Electric T700-GE-701E engine equipped with the FADEC.
  • Rockwell Collins provides the all-glass cockpit with multi-function displays integrated with primary flight, navigation, and tactical information.
  • BAE Systems provides the active control sticks that provide pilot tactile cueing.
  • Hamilton Sundstrand’s flight control computers host the FBW flight control software. Hamilton’s subsidiary, Claverham, provides the ballistic-tolerant main and tail rotor servos.
  • Eaton Aerospace provides the hydraulic pumps and heat exchangers. Pall Aeropower provides the hydraulic transfer and reservoir module for the fly-by-wire system.

In 2007, the Pentagon and U.S. Army approved the full rate production of 1,227 UH-60M aircraft and long lead procurement for 11 Upgrade LRIP aircraft. In June, the 4-101st Aviation Battalion became the First Unit Equipped with the UH-60M baseline model of the aircraft. The first delivery of approximately 900 UH-60M Upgrade aircraft is planned for the fourth quarter of 2010.

Source: Sikorsky Press Release

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