Warplanes: Polish Battle Hawks

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June 28, 2016: A Polish firm that builds the U.S. S-70 (civilian version of the UH-60) under license is now offering a militarized version of the S-70 for countries, especially in East Europe, looking for less expensive gunships. East European nations are still seeking to replace hundreds of Russian type transport helicopters (usually the Mi-8/17) that have been armed and the armed S-70 is seen as a likely replacement.

The S-70 has long been the export (from the U.S. manufacturer) version of the U.S. Army UH-60 Black Hawk transport helicopter. The S-70i is often sold to foreign military customers and is customized and equipped after delivery according to customer requirements. This sometimes involves weapons.

Armed S-70s are nothing new but have never been delivered as factory ready gunships (or Battle Hawks). The UH-60 is officially called the Black Hawk and armed (officially or otherwise) versions are often called Battle Hawks. The Polish Battle Hawk is armed in a similar fashion to earlier ones. That is it has a fire control system that can handle heavy machine-gun pods, laser guided missiles as well as unguided 70mm rockets (fired from pods). The Polish Battle Hawk if offered with a wide number of weapons options, including radars, anti-missile systems and most items available on helicopter gunships.

Converting the military version (the UH-60) to gunships came first and is still common. The U.S. Navy does it with their SH-60 Sea Hawks. Meanwhile Colombia, South Korea and Australia have created armed S-70s after receiving them unarmed. Some nations still prefer Battle Hawks built on UH-60s. In 2011 the UAE (United Arab Emirates) ordered 14 American UH-60M transport helicopters along with some interesting accessories including six spare engines, a defensive electronic warfare system for each helicopter (including laser and radar warning sensors as well as defenses against anti-aircraft missiles) and weapons systems for the new, and existing, UAE UH-60s. This includes equipping 23 of these helicopters to use Hellfire missiles. That includes 30 Hellfire launchers and 390 Hellfire missiles and 23,916 70mm (2.75 inch) unguided rockets. Gun systems include 22 of the three barrel 12.7mm GAU-19 Gatling gun (weighing 227 kg/500 pounds) which can fire 33 rounds a second. The other gun system was 93 GAU-2/M-134 six barrel 7.62mm miniguns, which can fire 66 rounds a second.

Since 2010 Colombia has been buying American S-70i helicopters for military jobs. Colombia is using these S-70is for its special operations troops and has them modified for that purpose. The two just ordered are to be delivered later this year. Colombia is the first South American country to buy the S-70i. The Colombian military and national police already have 96 UH-60L helicopters.

All UH-60s are militarized versions (UH-60, HH-60, MH-60) of the Sikorsky S-70, a 1970s design that won the competition to replace the older UH-1 "Huey." The army currently has about 2,000 UH-60s and is upgrading the force with the new "M" model. So far, about 2,700 UH-60s have been built. S-70i models are often equipped like the most recent versions of the UH-60 used by the American military.

The UH-60 was introduced in 1979. In 2006 the U.S. Army introduced the "M" model which featured several improvements. These included new rotor blades (more reliable and they provide 227 kg/500 pounds of additional lift), an all-electronic cockpit (putting all needed information on four full-color displays), an improved autopilot, improved flight controls (making flying easier, especially in stressful situations), a stronger fuselage, more efficient navigation system, better infrared suppression (making it harder for heat seeking missiles to hit), and more powerful engines. Before the M model the last major upgrade had been in the late 1980s, with the UH-60L. The M version, which cost about $50 million each fully equipped, will make the UH-60 viable into the 2020s.

The 11 ton UH-60M can carry 14 troops, or 1.1 tons of cargo internally, or four tons slung underneath. Cruise speed is 278 kilometers an hour. Max endurance is two hours, although most sorties last 90 minutes or less. Max altitude is 5,790 meters (19,000 feet).

 


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