The Black Hawk continues to expand in options for customers and it is enjoying increased sales in the Asia-Pacific region, according to a press conference by Sikorsky at this week’s Singapore Airshow.
Almost 40 years after its entry into service with the US military, Black Hawk utility helicopters and Seahawk maritime helicopters continue to grow in reliability, lethality and mission capability, said a company spokesperson.
The presentation, dubbed ‘Continued Rise of the Hawk – Increasing Capabilities and Missions’, included announcements for orders for more aerial firefighting S-70 Black Hawks for fire departments in California; Sikorsky’s integration of a sophisticated weapons system onto the same platform; international interest in a VIP/head of state configuration; additional upgrades to the anti-submarine warfare Seahawk; and expansion of the Sikorsky Training Academy.
After six years of development, the Attack Black Hawk is now being promoted for the first time at the show as an integrated system for the S-70M and S-70i that simplifies aerial gunnery for medium-attack mission roles.
Pilots control four forward-firing guns, rockets and laser-guided missiles. The system calculates complex ballistics for high-accuracy fire control from standoff distances. It has an EO sensor and helmet-mounted display for speedy cueing, targeting and launching of weapons.
The external wings with four weapons stations, plus weapon-mounted Miniguns, can be outfitted in less than three hours. Weapon systems include AGM-114 Hellfire antitank missiles, Hydra 70 unguided rockets and a 12.7mm triple-barrel Gatling gun.
The Attack Black Hawk includes an Elbit weapons management system. An unidentified country has procured 23, with ten delivered so far.
For aerial firefighting, Sikorsky is offering the Firehawk that easily meets first responder needs for reliable wildland fire attack and suppression, SAR, EMS and utility missions. One key thing that makes it good for aerial firefighting is that ‘we took off 800-900lbs used for US Army special operations, which lightens the load’, said an official.
Modifications by Sikorsky include a single-pilot-operated cockpit, a medically configured cabin, a 1,000-gallon removable belly water tank (the aircraft no longer uses Bambi Buckets) capable of 100 drops, extended landing gear, rescue hoist and 9,000lb-capacity cargo hook, EO/IR system, digital moving map system, high-powered searchlight and fast rope insertion.
It can even be rapidly adapted to new mission requirements while in flight.
Sikorsky has a training centre in Brunei that includes an S-70i simulator, and it has further improved its 3,251m² training facility for the S-70M/S-70i Black Hawk in southern Florida.
The Florida facility includes a modern flight simulator, classroom training and two S-70 aircraft. Instructors tailor programmes to aircrew and maintainer training needs. The performance-based training approach improves proficiency and skills and the facility has a direct line to the Sikorsky engineering department.
Sikorsky’s Seahawk is expected to continue flying for another 35 years, giving it a 70-year operational history. The aircraft has the lowest cost per flight hour in the USN fleet of aircraft, and it is the number one internationally chosen anti-submarine warfare and anti-surface warfare maritime helicopter.
The production line remains open, and current aircraft availability rates are in the high 90% range.
Sikorsky confirmed that the company was experimenting with remotely piloted Black Hawks, along with synched pilot and artificial intelligence, for a variety of missions.