The first UH-60V has been introduced into service. The ceremony was held at the Corpus Cristi Army Depot on the 9th October and was the result of extensive tests conducted by the Army in April. A modification of a UH-60L variant of Blackhawk is to replace the L model, the Army wants to field 760 UH-60V helicopters among 1,375 UH-60Ms.
The US Army delivered a brief fact-sheet on the UH-60V project:
The U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Aviation & Missile Center’s Prototype Integration Facility assisted the Utility Helicopter Project Management Office in developing and qualifying the UH-60V aircraft. The UH-60V features a digital cockpit that updates the legacy analog gauges. This achieves a similar pilot vehicle interface to the UH-60M, meets Global Air Traffic Management requirements, and addresses obsolescence issues. First flight of the prototype aircraft occurred Jan 19, 2017. Key members of the Redstone Team include PEO Aviation Utility Helicopters Project Office, the Redstone Test Center, the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Command, and CCDC Aviation & Missile Center. AvMC, as the system integrator, teamed with industry partners to meet the critical program schedule.
IMPORTANCE TO THE ARMY
The open architecture-based cockpit design replaces analog gauges with digital multi-functional displays and enhances situational awareness for aviation Warfighters. The UH-60V features one of the Army’s most advanced avionics solutions.
The real game-changer is UH-60V’s alignment with the Army’s Future Airborne Capability Environment (FACE) open architecture standards, that supports the integration of off-the-shelf hardware and software. It means that any changes and updates can be inserted immediately into the Blackhawk’s system.
As the Corpus Christi Army Depot claims, the modification of a single UH-60L to the UH-60V standard reduces costs by about $9 million per helicopter when compared to a purchase of a new aircraft. Additionally, the upgrade includes a 10-year service life extension to each airframe.
An upgrade delivered by the Redstone Defense Systems sets a milestone in the digitalization of aircraft cockpits. The experience of a human-machine interface is almost the same as in UH-60M. The removal of analog avionics and replacing them with digital ones by Northop Grumman also plays a vital role in the overall UH-60L modernization.
In conclusion, the UH-60V is a step forward in the modernization of the Blackhawk itself. The redesign, made in order to fulfil the requirements, was substantial and delivered new capabilities for the UH-60 airframe, extending its service for another decade. The V project is a good example of why modernization of aircraft is often more desirable than procuring new ones. It allows to reduction of costs, uses gathered experience, and deliver new possibilities to the older equipment.