Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk

This article is about the US Army military versions and operators of the S-70 family. For USAF variants, see Sikorsky HH-60 Pave Hawk. For an overview of the S-70 family and for its civilian models and operators, see Sikorsky S-70.
UH-60 Black Hawk
A UH-60L Black Hawk flies a low-level mission over Iraq in January 2004.
Role Utility helicopter
Manufacturer Sikorsky Aircraft
First flight 17 October 1974
Introduction 1979
Status In service
Primary users United States Army
Japan Self Defense Forces
Colombian Armed Forces
Turkish Armed Forces
Produced 1974–present
Number built about 4,000[1]
Unit cost
UH-60: US$21.3 million (avg. U.S. procurement, 2012)[2]
Developed from Sikorsky S-70
Variants Sikorsky SH-60 Seahawk
Sikorsky HH-60 Pave Hawk
Sikorsky HH-60 Jayhawk
Mitsubishi H-60

The Sikorsky 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.

Named after the Indian war leader Black Hawk, the UH-60A entered service with the U.S. Army in 1979, to replace the Bell UH-1 Iroquois as the Army's tactical transport helicopter. This was followed by the fielding of electronic warfare and special operations variants of the Black Hawk. Improved UH-60L and UH-60M utility variants have also been developed. Modified versions have also been developed for the U.S. Navy, Air Force, and Coast Guard. In addition to U.S. Army use, the UH-60 family has been exported to several nations. Black Hawks have served in combat during conflicts in Grenada, Panama, Iraq, Somalia, the Balkans, Afghanistan, and other areas in the Middle East.


Initial requirement

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.[3] The Army released its UTTAS request for proposals (RFP) in January 1972.[4] The RFP also included air transport requirements. Transport aboard the C-130 limited the UTTAS cabin height and length.[5]

The UTTAS requirements for improved reliability, survivability and lower life-cycle costs resulted in features such as dual-engines with improved hot and high altitude performance, and a modular design (reduced maintenance footprint); run-dry gearboxes; ballistically tolerant, redundant subsystems (hydraulic, electrical and flight controls); crashworthy crew (armored) and troop seats; dual-stage oleo main landing gear; ballistically tolerant, crashworthy main structure; quieter, more robust main and tail rotor systems; and a ballistically tolerant, crashworthy fuel system.[6]

UH-60A Black Hawks over Port Salinas during the invasion of Grenada, 1983. The conflict saw the first use of the UH-60 in combat.

Four prototypes were constructed, with the first YUH-60A flying on 17 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.[7] 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.[8]

Upgrades and variations

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.[9]

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.[10] Its external lift capacity increased by 1,000 lb (450 kg) up to 9,000 lb (4,100 kg). 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.[11] Production of the L-model began in 1989.[10]

UH-60s equipped with machine guns near An Najaf, Iraq in May 2005.

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, improved rotor blades, and 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,[12] manufacturing began in 2006,[13] with the first of 22 new UH-60Ms delivered in July 2006.[14] After an initial operational evaluation, the Army approved full-rate production and a five-year contract for 1,227 helicopters in December 2007.[15] By March 2009, 100 UH-60M helicopters had been delivered to the Army.[16] In November 2014, US military ordered 102 aircraft of various H-60 types, worth $1.3 billion.[17]

Following an operation in May 2011, it emerged that the 160th SOAR used a secret version of the UH-60 modified with low-observable technology which enabled it to evade Pakistani radar. Analysis of the tail section, the only remaining part of the aircraft which crashed during the operation,[18][19] revealed extra blades on the tail rotor and other noise reduction measures, making the craft much quieter than conventional UH-60s. The aircraft appeared to include features like special high-tech materials, harsh angles, and flat surfaces found only in stealth jets.[Nb 1][20] Low observable versions of the Black Hawk have been studied as far back as the mid-1970s.[21]

In September 2012, Sikorsky was awarded a Combat Tempered Platform Demonstration (CTPD) contract to further improve the Black Hawk's durability and survivability. The company is to develop new technologies such as a zero-vibration system, adaptive flight control laws, advanced fire management, a more durable main rotor, full-spectrum crashworthiness, and damage tolerant airframe; then they are to transition them to the helicopter. Improvements to the Black Hawk are to continue until the Future Vertical Lift program is ready to replace it.[22][23]

In December 2014, the 101st Airborne Division began testing of new resupply equipment called the Enhanced Speed Bag System (ESBS). Soldiers pinned down in the field requiring quick resupply have depended on speed bags, bags filled with items airdropped from a UH-60. However, all systems were ad-hoc with bags not made to keep things secure from impacts, so up to half of the airdropped items would be damaged upon hitting the ground. Started in 2011, the ESBS sought to standardize the airdrop resupply method and keep up to 90 percent of supplies intact. The system includes a hands-free reusable linear brake and expendable speed line and multipurpose cargo bag; when the bag is deployed, the brake applies friction to the rope, slowing it down enough to keep the bag oriented down on the padded base, a honeycomb and foam kit inside to dissipate energy. The ESBS not only better protects helicopter-dropped supplies, it allows the Black Hawk to fly higher above the ground, 100 ft (30 m) up from 10 feet, while traveling 20 knots (23 mph; 37 km/h), limiting exposure to ground fire. Each bag can weigh 125–200 lb (57–91 kg) and up to six can be deployed at once, dropping 40–50 feet per second (12–15 m/s). Since supplies can de delivered more accurately and the system can be automatically released on its own, the ESBS can enable autonomous resupply from unmanned helicopters.[24][25][26]


UH-60A Black Hawk parked on flight line

The UH-60 features four-blade main and tail rotors, and is powered by two General Electric T700 turboshaft engines.[27] The main rotor is fully articulated and has elastomeric bearings in the rotor head. The tail rotor is canted and features a rigid crossbeam.[28] The helicopter has a long, low profile shape to meet the Army's requirement for transporting aboard a C-130 Hercules, with some disassembly.[27] It can carry 11 troops with equipment, lift 2,600 pounds (1,200 kg) of cargo internally or 9,000 pounds (4,100 kg) of cargo (for UH-60L/M) externally by sling.[15]

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.[29] In air assault operations, it can move a squad of 11 combat troops or reposition a 105 mm M119 howitzer with 30 rounds ammunition, and a four-man crew in a single lift.[15] The Black Hawk is equipped with advanced avionics and electronics for increased survivability and capability, such as the Global Positioning System.

A view of a UH-60L cockpit

The UH-60 can be equipped with stub wings at the top of fuselage to carry fuel tanks or various armaments. The initial stub wing system is called External Stores Support System (ESSS).[30] It has two pylons on each wing to carry two 230 US gal (870 L) and two 450 US gal (1,700 L) tanks in total.[11] The four fuel tanks and associated lines and valves form the external extended range fuel system (ERFS).[31] U.S. Army UH-60s have had their ESSS modified into the crashworthy external fuel system (CEFS) configuration, replacing the older tanks with up to four total 200 US gal (760 L) crashworthy tanks along with self-sealing fuel lines.[32] The ESSS can also carry 10,000 lb (4,500 kg) of armament such as rockets, missiles and gun pods.[11][33] The ESSS entered service in 1986. However, it was found that the four fuel tanks obstruct the field of fire for the door guns; thus, the external tank system (ETS), carrying two fuel tanks on the stub wings, was developed.[11]

The unit cost of the H-60 models varies due to differences in 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 HH-60G Pave Hawk is $10.2 million.[34]

Operational history


Australia has 34 Black Hawks as of 2015. It has deployed the aircraft to East Timor[35] and the Solomon Islands.[36] It did not deploy Black Hawks to Afghanistan because Angus Houston, the then-defence chief, advised the government that the aircraft lacked armour and self-defence systems.[37]


Brazil received four UH-60L helicopters in 1997, for the Brazilian Army peacekeeping forces. It received six UH-60Ls configured for special forces, and search and rescue use in 2008. It ordered ten more UH-60Ls in 2009; deliveries began in March 2011.[38]

China (People's Republic of China)

In December 1983, examples of the Aerospatiale AS-332 Super Puma, Bell 214ST SuperTransport and Sikorsky S-70A-5 (N3124B) were airlifted to Lhasa for testing. These demonstrations included take-offs and landings at altitudes to 17,000 feet (5,200 m) and en route operations to 24,000 feet (7,300 m). At the end of this testing, the People's Liberation Army Air Force purchased 24 S-70C-2s, equipped with more powerful GE T700-701A engines for improved high-altitude performance.[39] While designated as civil variants of the S-70 for export purposes, they are operated by the People's Liberation Army Air Force.

Taiwan (Republic of China)

Taiwan S-70C

Taiwan operated S-70C-1/1A after the Republic of China Air Force received ten S-70C-1A and four S-70C-1 Bluehawk helicopters in June 1986, for Search And Rescue.[40] Four further S-70C-6s were received in April 1998. The ROC Navy received the first of ten S-70C(M)-1s in July 1990. 11 S-70C(M)-2s were received beginning April 2000.[41] In January 2010, the US announced a Foreign Military Sale of 60 UH-60Ms to Taiwan for the ROC Army.[42]


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 transport troops and supplies to places which are difficult to access by land for counter-insurgency (COIN) operations against drug and guerrilla organizations, for search and rescue, and for medical evacuation. Colombia also operates a militarized gunship version of the UH-60, with stub wings, locally known as Arpía (English: Harpy).[43][44]

The Colombian Army became the first worldwide operator of the S-70i with Terrain Awareness and Warning Capability (HTAWS) after taking delivery of the first two units on 13 August 2013.[45]


Israel Air Force UH-60 Yanshuf

The Israeli Air Force (IAF) received 10 surplus UH-60A Black Hawks from the United States in August 1994.[46] Named Yanshuf (English: Owl) by the IAF,[47] the UH-60A began replacing Bell 212 utility helicopters.[46] The IAF first used the UH-60s in combat during 1996 in southern Lebanon[46] in Operation "Grapes of Wrath" against the Hezbollah.


The Mexican Air Force ordered its first two UH-60Ls in 1991, to transport special forces units, and another four in 1994.[48] In July and August 2009, the Federal Police used UH-60s in attacks on drug traffickers.[49][50] In August 2011, the Mexican Navy received three upgraded and navalized UH-60M.[51] On 21 April 2014, the U.S. State Department approved the sale of 18 UH-60Ms to Mexico pending approval from Congress.[52] In September 2014, Sikorsky received a $203.6 million firm-fixed-price contract modification for the 18 UH-60 designated for the Mexican Air Force.[53]


Sweden requested 15 UH-60M helicopters by Foreign Military Sale in September 2010.[54] The UH-60Ms were ordered in May 2011, and deliveries began in January 2012.[55] In March 2013, Swedish ISAF forces began using Black Hawks in Afghanistan for MEDEVAC purposes.[56] The UH-60Ms are to be fully operational by 2017.[57]


Turkey has operated the UH-60 during NATO deployments to Afghanistan and the Balkans. The UH-60 has also been used in counter-terror/internal security operations.

The Black Hawk competed against the AgustaWestland AW149 in the Turkish General Use Helicopter Tender, to order up to 115 helicopters and produce many of them indigenously, with Turkish Aerospace Industries responsible for final integration and assembly.[58][59] On 21 April 2011, Turkey announced the selection of Sikorsky's T-70.[60][61][62]

In the course of the coup d'état attempt in Turkey on 15 July 2016, eight Turkish military personnel of various ranks landed in Greece′s northeastern city of Alexandroupolis on board the Black Hawk helicopter and claimed political asylum in Greece.[63] The helicopter was returned to Turkey shortly thereafter.[64]

United States

U.S. Army MH-60L during the Battle of Mogadishu in 1993

The UH-60 entered service with the U.S. Army's 101st Combat Aviation Brigade of the 101st Airborne Division in June 1979.[65] The U.S. military first used 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 in 1991, the UH-60 participated in the largest air assault mission in U.S. Army history with over 300 helicopters involved. Two UH-60s (89-26214 and 78-23015) were shot down, both on 27 February 1991, while performing Combat Search and Rescue of other downed aircrews, an F-16C pilot and the crew of a MEDEVAC UH-1H that were shot down earlier that day.[66]

In 1993, Black Hawks featured prominently in the assault on Mogadishu in Somalia. Black Hawks also saw action in the Balkans and Haiti in the 1990s.[11] U.S. Army UH-60s and other helicopters conducted many air assault and other support missions during the 2003 invasion of Iraq. The UH-60 has continued to serve in operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.[11]

Customs and Border Protection Office of Air and Marine (OAM) uses the UH-60 in its operations specifically along the southwest border. The Black Hawk has been used by OAM to interdict illegal entry into the U.S. Additionally, OAM regularly uses the UH-60 in search and rescue operations.

Highly modified H-60s were employed during the U.S. Special Operations mission that resulted in the death of Osama bin Laden on 1 May 2011.[20][67] One such MH-60 helicopter crash-landed during the operation, and was destroyed by the team before it departed in the other MH-60 and a backup MH-47 Chinook with bin Laden's remains. Two MH-47s were used for the mission to refuel the two MH-60s and as backups.[68] News media reported that the Pakistani government granted the Chinese military access to the wreckage of the crashed 'stealth' UH-60 variant in Abbotabad;[69][70][71] Pakistan and China denied the reports,[69][70] and the U.S. Government has not confirmed Chinese access.[70]

Other and potential users

The United Arab Emirates requested 14 UH-60M helicopters and associated equipment in September 2008, through Foreign Military Sale.[72] It had received 20 UH-60Ls by November 2010.[73] Bahrain ordered nine UH-60Ms in 2007.[74][75]

In November 2009, the Iraqi government requested the sale of up to 27 light and medium utility helicopters, including 12 UH-60Ms.

In December 2011, the Royal Brunei Air Force ordered twelve S-70i helicopters, which are similar to the UH-60M; four aircraft had been received by December 2013.[76] On 12 June 2012, the U.S. Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress that Qatar requested the purchase of twelve UH-60Ms, engines, and associated equipment.[77]

On 25 February 2013, the Indonesian Army announced its interest in buying UH-60 Black Hawks as part of its effort to modernize its weaponry. The army wants them for combating terrorism, transnational crime, and insurgency to secure the archipelago.[78]

On 27 May 2014, Croatian Defence Minister Ante Kotromanović announced the beginning of negotiations with the US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel for the purchase of 15 used Black Hawks; the deal is expected to be completed by 2017.[79]

Tunisia requested 12 armed UH-60M helicopters in July 2014 through Foreign Military Sale.[80] In August 2014, the U.S. ambassador stated that the U.S. "will soon make available" the UH-60Ms to Tunisia.[81]

On 23 January 2015, the Malaysian Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein confirmed that Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) is getting S-70A Blackhawks from the Brunei government. The helicopters, which believed be four, are expected to be transferred to Malaysia by September and will be armed with M134D miniguns. The four Blackhawks were delivered to Royal Brunei Air Force (RBAF) in 1999 and currently operated by the 4th Squadron.[82]

In April 2015, Slovakia's government approved the procurement of nine UH-60Ms along with training and support.[83][84]


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.[11] Variants may have different capabilities and equipment to fulfill different roles.

Utility variants

Six UH-60L Black Hawks from B Company "Lancers", 5th Battalion, 101st Aviation Regiment, on an air assault mission in Iraq
U.S. Army UH-60A MEDEVAC evacuating simulated casualties during a training exercise

Special purpose

Aeromedical configuration
VH-60Ns used to transport the President of the United States

Export versions


Norwegian soldiers in a UH-60
S-70A-9 in Australian Army service
UH-60L in the Brazilian Army service

Sikorsky military model for the export market:

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

Military operators

See Sikorsky SH-60 Seahawk, Sikorsky HH-60 Pave Hawk, Sikorsky HH-60 Jayhawk, and Sikorsky S-70 for operators of other H-60/S-70 family helicopters
An Australian Army S-70A-9 Black Hawk
Black Hawk of the Colombian Air Force launching flares, 2011.
Japan Ground Self-Defense Force UH-60J
U.S. Army National Guard UH-60 Black Hawk with snow-ski kit
 People's Republic of China
 Republic of Korea
 Saudi Arabia
 Taiwan (Republic of China)
 United Arab Emirates
 United States

Accidents and incidents

On 12 June 1996, the Australian Special Air Service Regiment was conducting counter terrorist training in the High Range area near Townsville, North Queensland, Australia. During night insertion exercises with 5 Aviation Regiment, two S-70A-9 Black Hawks collided and three army air crew and fifteen SAS Regiment personnel were killed.[142]

On 29 November 2006, an Australian Army S-70A Black Hawk helicopter operating from HMAS Kanimbla crashed and fell overboard while attempting to land on the aft helicopter deck.[143] Of the ten Army personnel on board, seven were injured, one was killed, and the tenth was declared missing until his remains were found on 5 March 2007, trapped in the helicopter wreckage 3,000 metres (9,800 ft) below sea level.[143][144]

On 10 March 2015, a UH-60 from Eglin Air Force Base crashed off the coast of the Florida Panhandle near the base. All 11 on board were believed killed.[145]

Specifications (UH-60L)

Data from Encyclopedia of Modern Warplanes,[146] International Directory,[147] Black Hawk[148]

General characteristics



See also

Related development
Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era
Related lists



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  • Bishop, Chris. Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk. Oxford, UK: Osprey, 2008. ISBN 978-1-84176-852-6.
  • Leoni, Ray D. Black Hawk, The Story of a World Class Helicopter. Reston, Virginia: American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, 2007. ISBN 978-1-56347-918-2.
  • Tomajczyk, Stephen F. Black Hawk. St. Paul, Minnesota: MBI, 2003. ISBN 0-7603-1591-4.
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