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The UH-60 Black Hawk is a four-bladed, twin-engine, medium-lift utility helicopter manufactured by Sikorsky Aircraft. Sikorsky submitted the S-70 design for the United States Army's Utility Tactical Transport Aircraft System (UTTAS) competition in 1972. The Army designated the prototype as the YUH-60A and selected the Black Hawk as the winner of the program in 1976, after a fly-off competition with the Boeing Vertol YUH-61. The UH-60A entered service with the Army in 1979, to replace the UH-1 Iroquois as the Army's tactical transport helicopter.


In the late 1960s, the United States Army began forming requirements for a helicopter to replace the UH-1 Iroquois, and designated the program as the Utility Tactical Transport Aircraft System (UTTAS). The Army also initiated the development of a new, common turbine engine for its helicopters that would become the General Electric T700. Based on experience in Vietnam, the Army required significant performance, survivability and reliability improvements from both UTTAS and the new powerplant. The Army released its UTTAS request for proposals (RFP) in January 1972.

Four prototypes were constructed, with the first YUH-60A flying in October 1974. Prior to delivery of the prototypes to the US Army, a preliminary evaluation was conducted in November 1975 to ensure the aircraft could be operated safely during all testing. Three of the prototypes were delivered to the Army in March 1976, for evaluation against the rival Boeing-Vertol design, the YUH-61A, and one was kept by Sikorsky for internal research. The Army selected the UH-60 for production in December 1976. Deliveries of the UH-60A to the Army began in October 1978 and the helicopter entered service in June 1979.

Further developments

After entering service, the helicopter was modified for new missions and roles, including mine laying and medical evacuation. An EH-60 variant was developed to conduct electronic warfare and special operations aviation developed the MH-60 variant to support its missions.

UH-60A Black Hawk parked on flight line
Due to weight increases from the addition of mission equipment and other changes, the Army ordered the improved UH-60L in 1987. The new model incorporated all of the modifications made to the UH-60A fleet as standard design features. The UH-60L also featured more power and lifting capability with upgraded T700-GE-701C engines and a stronger gearbox, both developed for the SH-60B Seahawk. Its external lift capacity increased by to . The UH-60L also incorporated the automatic flight control system (AFCS) from the SH-60 for better flight control due to handling issues with the more powerful engines. Production of the L-model began in 1989.

Development of the next improved variant, the UH-60M, was approved in 2001, to extend the service life of the UH-60 design into the 2020s. The UH-60M incorporates upgraded T700-GE-701D engines and improved rotor blades. It also features state of the art electronic instrumentation, flight controls and aircraft navigation control. After the U.S. DoD approved low-rate initial production of the new variant, manufacturing began in 2006,Leoni 2007, pp. 233-236. with the first of 22 new UH-60Ms delivered in July 2006. After an initial operational evaluation, the Army approved full-rate production and a five-year contract for 1,227 helicopters in December 2007. By March 2009, 100 UH-60M helicopters had been delivered to the Army.


The UH-60 features a four-blade main and tail rotors and is powered by two GE T700 turboshaft engines. It has a long, low profile shape to meet the Army's requirement for transporting aboard a C-130 Hercules. It can carry 11 troops with equipment, lift 2,600 lb (1,170 kg) of cargo internally or 9,000 lb (4,050 kg) of cargo (for UH-60L/M) externally by sling.

The Black Hawk helicopter series can perform a wide array of missions, including the tactical transport of troops, electronic warfare, and aeromedical evacuation. A VIP version known as the VH-60N is used to transport important government officials (e.g., Congress, Executive departments) with the helicopter's call sign of "Marine One" when transporting the President of the United States. In air assault operations it can move a squad of 11 combat troops or reposition a 105 mm M102 howitzer with thirty rounds ammunition, and a four-man crew in a single lift. The Black Hawk is equipped with advanced avionics and electronics for increased survivability and capability, such as the Global Positioning System.

The UH-60 can be equipped with stub wings at top of fuselage to carry fuel tanks or possibly armament. The initial stub wing system is called External Stores Support System . It has two pylons on each wing to carry two and two tanks in total. The four fuel tanks and associated lines and valves form the external extended range fuel system (ERFS). The ESSS can also carry of armament such as rockets, missile and gun pods. The ESSS entered service in 1986. However it was found that with four fuel tanks it would obstruct the firing field of the door guns. To alleviate the issue, the external tank system (ETS) with unswept stub wings to carry two fuel tanks was developed.

The unit cost varies with the version due to the varying specifications, equipment and quantities. For example, the unit cost of the Army's UH-60L Black Hawk is $5.9 million while the unit cost of the Air Force MH-60G Pave Hawk is $10.2 million.

Operational history

U.S. Army

The UH-60 entered service with the U.S. Army's 101st Airborne Division in June 1979. The U.S. military first utilized the UH-60 in combat during the invasion of Grenada in 1983, and again in the invasion of Panama in 1989. During the Gulf War, UH-60 participated in the longest air assault mission in U.S. Army history, in 1991. In 1993, Black Hawks featured prominently in the assault on Mogadishumarker in Somaliamarker. Black Hawks also saw action in the Balkans and Haitimarker in the 1990s. UH-60s continue to serve in Afghanistanmarker and Iraqmarker.


Colombia first received UH-60s from the United States in 1987. The Colombian National Police, Colombian Air Force, and Colombian Army use UH-60s to mobilize troops and supplies to places which are difficult to access by ground for counter-insurgency (COIN) operations against drug and guerrilla organizations, as well as for search & rescue and medical evacuation. Colombia also has a militarized gunship version of the UH-60, with stub wings, locally known as Arpia ( ).


The Israeli Air Force (IAF) received 10 surplus UH-60A Black Hawks from the United States in August 1994.Leoni 2007, pp. 278-279. Nicknamed Yanshuf ( ), the UH-60A began replacing Bell 212 utility helicopters of the Israeli Defense Forces. The IAF first used the UH-60s in combat in April 1996, during operation "Grapes of Wrath" against the Hizbullah in southern Lebanon.

In March 2000, three IAF UH-60s were used to ferry Pope John Paul II during his visit to Israel, with one helicopter carrying the Pope, another his medical team and a third available on constant standby. The IAF had 49 UH-60s in operation as of 2008.


Mexican Federal Police UH-60/S-70

The Mexican Air Force received its first UH-60s in 1994, to transport special forces units. In March 2009, the United States stated it would provide helicopters and other equipment under the Mérida Initiative, to fight the drug cartels in the Mexican drug war. In July and August 2009, the Federal Police used UH-60s in attacks on drug traffickers.


Turkey has operated the UH-60 during NATO deployments to Afghanistan and Balkans. The UH-60 has also been used in the government's conflict with Kurdish insurgents near and along the Iraqi border.

The Black Hawk is a strong contender in the Turkish General Use Helicopter Tender. Under this project Turkey intends to order 115 helicopters and produce most of them indigenously.


The United Arab Emirates has requested 14 UH-60M helicopters through a Foreign Military Sale. The package includes laser and radar warning sensors as well as weapons systems.


The UH-60 comes in many variants, and many different modifications. The U.S. Army variants can be fitted with the stub wings to carry additional fuel tanks or weapons. Variants may have different capabilities and their respective equipment in order to fulfill different roles.

Utility variants

  • UH-60A Black Hawk: Original U.S. Army version, carrying a crew of four and up to 11 passengers. Equipped with T700-GE-700 engines. Produced 1977-1989.
  • UH-60C Black Hawk: Modified version for C2 missions.
  • CH-60E: Proposed troop transport variant for the US Marine Corps.
  • UH-60L Black Hawk: UH-60A with upgraded T700-GE-701C engines, improved durability gearbox, and updated flight control system. Produced 1989-2007.

  • UH-60M Black Hawk: Improved design wide chord rotor blades, T700-GE-701D engines (max each), improved durability gearbox, Integrated Vehicle Management Systems (IVHMS) computer, and modern "Glass Cockpit" flight instrument suite. Production began in 2006. Planned to replace older U.S. Army UH-60s.

Special purpose

  • EH-60A Black Hawk: Modified electrical system and stations for two electronic systems mission operators. (All examples of type have been taken back to standard UH-60A configuration.)
  • YEH-60B Black Hawk: UH-60A modified for special radar and avionics installations, prototype for stand-off target acquisition system.
  • EH-60C Black Hawk: UH-60A modified with special electronics equipment and external antenna. (All examples of type have been taken back to standard UH-60A configuration.)
  • EUH-60L (no official name assigned): Modified with additional mission electronic equipment for Army Airborne C2.
  • EH-60L Black Hawk: EH-60A with major mission equipment upgrade.

  • UH-60Q Black Hawk: UH-60A modified for medical evacuation.
  • HH-60L (no official name assigned): UH-60L extensively modified with medical mission equipment. Components include an external rescue hoist, integrated patient configuration system, environmental control system, on-board oxygen system (OBOGS), and crashworthy ambulatory seats.

  • MH-60A Black Hawk: Modified with additional avionics, precision navigation system, FLIR and air-to-air refueling capability. Equipped with T700-GE-701 engines.
  • MH-60K Black Hawk: USA variant. Special operations modification, used by the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment ("Night Stalkers") at Fort Campbell, Kentuckymarker.
  • MH-60L Direct Action Penetrator (DAP): USA variant. Special operations modification, operated by the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment. It is capable of being armed with Hellfire missiles, M230 Chain Gun 30 mm automatic cannon, Hydra 70 rockets, as well as M134D gatling guns operated as door guns or fixed forward.
  • HH-60M {no official name assigned}: US Army variant. UH-60M with medical mission equipment.

  • UH-60A RASCAL: NASA-modified version for the Rotorcraft-Aircrew Systems Concepts Airborne Laboratory: $US25M program for the study of helicopter maneuverability in three programs, Superaugmented Controls for Agile Maneuvering Performance (SCAMP), Automated Nap-of-the-Earth (ANOE) and Rotorcraft Agility and Pilotage Improvement Demonstration (RAPID).

  • VH-60D Nighthawk: USMC variant. VIP-configured HH-60D, used for Presidential transport. T700-GE-401C engines.
  • VH-60N Whitehawk: USMC variant. Modified UH-60A with some features from the SH-60B/F Seahawks. Used for Presidential and VIP transport. It entered service in 1988 and nine were delivered.

Export versions

  • UH-60J Black Hawk: Export variant for the Japanese Air Self Defense Force and Maritime Self Defense Force. Also known as the S-70-12. Made under license by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries.
  • UH-60JA Black Hawk: Export variant for the Japanese Ground Self Defense Force. Also made under license by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries.

  • AH-60L Arpía III: Export version for Colombia, COIN attack version with improved electronics, firing system, FLIR, radar, light rockets and machine gun, developed by the Colombian Air Force, Elbit and Sikorsky.
  • AH-60L Battle Hawk: Export version unsuccessfully tendered for Australian Army project AIR87, similar to AH-60L Arpía III.
  • UH-60P Black Hawk: Export version for the Republic of Koreamarker, similar to UH-60L configuration.


Sikorsky military model for the export market:
  • S-70A-1 Desert Hawk: Export version for the Royal Saudi Land Forces.
  • S-70A-L1 Desert Hawk: Aeromedical evacuation version for the Royal Saudi Land Forces.
  • S-70-5 Black Hawk: Export version for the Philippine Air Force.
  • S-70A-9 Black Hawk: Export version for the Australian army.
  • S-70-11 Black Hawk: Export version for the Royal Jordanian Air Force.
  • S-70-12 Black Hawk: Search and rescue model for the Japanese Air Self Defense Force and Maritime Self Defense Force. Also known as the UH-60J.
  • S-70-14 Black Hawk: Export version for Brunei.
  • S-70-16 Black Hawk: Engine test bed for the Rolls-Royce/Turbomeca RTM 332.
  • S-70-17 Black Hawk: Export version for Turkey.
  • Sikorsky/Westland S-70-19 Black Hawk: This version is built under license in the United Kingdom by Westland. Also known as the WS-70.
  • S-70-21 Black Hawk: Export version for Egypt.
  • S-70-24 Black Hawk: Export version for Mexico.
  • S-70-26 Black Hawk: Export version for Morocco.
  • S-70-27 Black Hawk: Export version for Hong Kong.
  • S-70A-42 Black Hawk: Export version for Austria.
  • S-70A-43 Black Hawk: Export version for Royal Thai Army.

See SH-60 Seahawk, HH-60 Pave Hawk, and HH-60 Jayhawk for other Sikorsky S-70 variants.

Military operators

An Australian Army S-70A-9 Black Hawk
An Austrian S-70A-42

: Received 2 UH-60A/S-70A and 8 UH-60L/S-70A Black Hawks.
  • Brazilian Air Force has 6 UH-60s in service with another 4 on order in Nov. 2008. Another 15 authorized to be ordered in the next few years.
  • Brazilian Army has 4 UH-60Ls in service with another 6 on order in Nov. 2008.
  • Brazilian Navy has 4 S-70Bs on order in Nov. 2008.
: Received 1 UH-60A and 1 UH-60L Black Hawks with 9 UH-60Ms on order as of 2007.
: Received 1 UH-60L.
: Received 8 UH-60Ls, with 4 in service as of Nov. 2008.
: Has 49 S-70A/UH-60A/L helicopters in use as of Nov. 2008.
: Has 9 UH-60Ls in service with 2 on order as of Nov. 2008.
  • The Republic of Korea Army and Navy received 130 and 10 UH-60P Black Hawks, respectively. Republic of Korea has 43 S-70As, and 98 UH-60Ps in use as of Nov. 2008.
  • Presidential Air Wing received 2 S-70s.
: Has 15 UH-60Ls in use as of Nov. 2008.
: The Turkish military and national police received 12 UH-60A/L (S-70A-17), and 95 UH-60L (S-70A-28) Black Hawks. The Turkish Army has 59 S-70As (UH-60A/L) in service as of January 2009.
  • United States Army has 1,349 UH-60s, 64 EH-60s, and 58 MH-60s in inventory as of January 2009.

Former military operators

See Sikorsky S-70 for civilian operators.

Specifications (UH-60L)

See also

A cockpit view of a UH-60 Black Hawk from 1st Cavalry Division flying out of Camp Taji, Iraq 2009.


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  2. Leoni 2007, pp. 11, 39.
  3. Leoni 2007, p. 165.
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  24. Clinton vows US backing in Mexican drug wars.
  25. "Mexico sends 1,000 more police to drug area". MSNBC, 16 July 2009.
  26. "Mexican police arrest 34 drug cartel suspects". CNN, 3 August 2009.
  28. "TAI to procure more helicopters for security". Today's Zaman, 6 April 2009
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  35. 160th's web page
  36. Science Blog, NASA
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  46. Leoni 2007, pp. 298-300.
  47. Leoni 2007, p. 314.
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