Sikorsky (a unit of Lockheed Martin, Chalet CS02) has completed the six-year development and qualification program for its weaponization kit, tailored for the S-70i/UH-60M Black Hawk. The qualification involved around two years of live firing trials conducted at the Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona.
Using the Black Hawk’s existing digital avionics, the kit allows a range of weaponry to be launched and fired, including precision-guided Hellfire missiles and laser-guided rockets. The system also provides accurate aiming for unguided weapons such as Hydra 70 rockets carried in seven- or 19-round launchers, and forward-firing .50 caliber machine guns. In addition, the system supports the operation of 7.62mm guns mounted in the cabin windows that can be fixed to fire forward under pilot operation, or when flex-mounted, as crew-served guns.
Apart from the window guns, weapons are carried on external wings mounted on the fuselage side and each equipped with two hardpoints. An electro-optic/infrared sensor/laser designator turret provides accurate targeting to both pilots through a helmet-mounted display. The complex ballistics are calculated by the system to generate aiming cues in the helmet display, facilitating the task of rapidly bringing weapons to bear.
A number of configurations have been qualified, including an anti-armor loadout with 16 laser-guided missiles such as Hellfire. For long-endurance missions, the UH-60M can carry a full external weapons load with ammunition pallets and an auxiliary fuel tank in the cabin. In the transport role, the UH-60M can seat 10 troops with two window gunners.
Arming Black Hawks is not a new idea, with earlier generations of the UH-60 having been armed for U.S. special forces duty, and as the UH-60L Arpia III for Colombia. The launch customer for the Sikorsky kit is the UAE, which announced an order for arming 24 of its UH-60Ms in 2011. A number of existing and potential users have expressed interest in the Armed Black Hawk, including Tunisia.