Sikorsky Aircraft yesterday announced plans to develop two new versions of its H-60 Black Hawk aimed at sales outside the U.S.: the International Black Hawk and the Armed BattleHawk.
Sikorsky president Jeff Pino said the company sees the International Black Hawk as “a more affordable alternative” to its current production UH-60M Black Hawk, the first example of which is due for delivery to the U.S. Army on July 31. The UH-60M includes an upgraded main gearbox, wider-chord main rotor blades, new Rockwell Collins cockpit, four-axis autopilot, a redesigned cabin structure and other improvements and will eventually incorporate fly-by-wire controls.
The International Black Hawk will also incorporate several upgrades, though not as extensively as the UH-60M and not necessarily to meet specific U.S. Army requirements. Included will be a less-expensive digital cockpit, four-axis AFCS with fully coupled autopilot, dynamic components based on those in the UH-60L and -M models and the current cabin structure. The result will be “millions of dollars of savings” compared with the UH-60M, said Pino. “We plan to deliver a helicopter with a 10-ton lift capacity at the price of one with a six-ton capacity,” he said.
Perhaps of greater interest to governments that may consider the International Black Hawk is “Sikorsky’s long-range strategic objective to globalize operations and expand our supply base with qualified, cost-competitive manufacturers and service providers from across the world” to participate in the manufacture, assembly and support of the model, explained Pino.
Sikorsky is looking for companies outside the U.S. with the capability of producing components, assembling green aircraft and completing interiors. Pino said Sikorsky is evaluating several companies in a number of countries and will likely announce some agreements within the next six months. The first deliveries of the International Black Hawk will take place by early 2010, he said.
Sikorsky plans to make the Armed BattleHawk, which will incorporate an integrated electronics warfare suite and full complement of armaments, available as a new-build aircraft and as a kit that can be retrofitted onto existing Black Hawk platforms. Working with Elbit of Israel (which builds kits for an armed UH-60 variant for Colombia), the helicopter OEM plans to have the BattleHawk in design and test next year.
Armaments will include integrated helmet display, C4I system, missiles, rockets and turreted gun to provide a range of armed reconnaissance and attack capabilities. Troop transport, search and rescue and disaster relief roles will also be possible.
Summarizing the niche for the Armed BattleHawk, Pino said, “Shrinking military budgets and changing battlefield environments call for an effective multi-purpose aircraft for governments that have both an attack and utility requirement."