The U.S. Army has finished testing
the new version of the UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter, and is putting it into mass
production. This M model is the new standard for the UH-60. The UH-60M features
several improvements, including new rotor blades (more reliable, and provide
500 pounds of additional lift), an all electronic cockpit (putting all needed
information on four full-color displays), an improved autopilot (which will fly
the chopper if the pilot is injured and unable to), 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. Units will begin receiving the production models
in September, and the army will buy at least 90 over the next five years. There
are already sixteen in service, which were used for testing. The oldest model,
the UH-60As, will continue to serve until the last of them is retired in 2025.
By then, all UH-60s will be L or M models.
The last major upgrade of the Black Hawk was in the
late 1980s, when the UH-60L was introduced. The M version, which will cost
about six million dollars each, will make the UH-60 viable into the 2020s. The
11 ton UH-60M will be complemented by two new, smaller, helicopters, the 2.8
ton ARH-70 (a militarized Bell-407, which will most directly replace the
elderly OH-58D scout helicopter), while the 3.6 ton UH-145 will supplement the
UH-60 for transportation and other jobs, and replace many of the UH-1s now
being phased out of reserve units.