Armed Black Hawk Debuts at IDEX

 - February 22, 2019, 10:06 AM
Two of Joint Aviation Command's new UH-60M Armed Black Hawks participated in the IDEX tactical demonstration. (photo: David Donald)

The United Arab Emirates Joint Aviation Command showed off its new Lockheed Martin/Sikorsky UH-60M Armed Black Hawks (ABH) for the first time in public during the International Defence Exhibition (IDEX) held in Abu Dhabi, February 17-21. The UAE was the launch customer for this integrated weaponization kit, announcing an order for 24 UH-60Ms plus the weapons kit at the 2011 edition of IDEX.

Installation of the kits is performed by AMMROC (Advanced Military Maintenance Repair Overhaul Center), an Abu Dhabi-based joint venture between the Emirates Defense Industries Company (EDIC), Sikorsky and Lockheed Martin that supports many of the UAE Armed Force’s aviation fleet. AMMROC has completed six ABH installations to date, and the type was officially unveiled in January during a visit by members of the Abu Dhabi royal family to the AMMROC facility.

Sikorsky tailored the ABH kit to the all-digital UH-60M and S-70i, and developed it primarily for export. The project is separate from U.S. Special Operation Command’s Direct Action Penetrator (DAP) versions of the Black Hawk, which were overseen by SOCOM and include U.S.-specific elements that are non-exportable.

ABH integrates directly into the flight management system, presenting targeting data in the main cockpit displays and helmet displays. The system automatically takes care of the changing center of gravity as weapons are loaded or fired, as well as other functions. One of the UH-60M’s main advances is the fully digital coupled four-axis flight director, which makes piloting much easier than with earlier versions.

The ABH kit adds four external pylons for carrying up to 16 Hellfire missiles, rocket pods (including laser-guided rocket capability) and guns, including the three-barrel 0.5-in GAU-19/A. Miniguns can be mounted in the windows as crew-served weapons, but can also be locked to fire forwards, operated by the pilots. The various weapons underwent an extensive two-year live-fire campaign at Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona before gaining military certification.

The ABH can also mount an electro-optic turret: in the case of the UAE aircraft it is the FLIR Systems BRITE Star II. The cabin can also hold a 200-gallon (U.S.) auxiliary fuel tank. As an option, the entire weaponization kit can be removed in a few hours to restore the UH-60M to its standard assault helicopter configuration.

Unlike in previous years, military aviation news was scarce during IDEX 2019. Raytheon was awarded two contracts worth a combined total of around $1.9 billion to provide more Patriot systems and interceptors to the UAE, while Lockheed Martin unveiled a new air defense system aimed initially at the UAE Hawk replacement requirement. LM’s Skykeeper command and control system is combined with Saab’s Giraffe 4A GaN technology radar and Diehl Defence’s Iris-T SLM vertical launch missile to form a system known as Falcon.

An artist's impression shows how the multi-mission Challenger 650 might look in UAE Air Force service. Note the large forward observer windows. (photo: Aquila Aerospace)

Start-up Aquila Aerospace, owned by ADASI, announced that it had been contracted to modify one (with another on option) new-build Bombardier Challenger 650 to a multi-mission specification for the UAE Air Force. With engineering assistance from the OEM, Aquila is fitting an electro-optic turret, operator consoles, large observer windows and air-openable door for a maritime surveillance/search-and-rescue capability. The Challenger(s) will also be able to undertake medical evacuation and VIP/staff transport/command duties. Aquila is based at Abu Dhabi’s Al Bateen airport, and is the first facility in the region to offer special-mission conversions of business aircraft.

Chinese radar manufacturer CETC promoted two airborne early warning technologies outside China for the first time. One was the triangular-array system that is in PLA service as the KJ-500, mounted on a Shaanxi Y-9 platform, while the other was the JY-300, the world’s first UAV with conformal radar antennas.

Emirati company Calidus displayed a full-scale mock-up of its B-250 light attack aircraft and announced a partnership with GDC Middle East of Saudi Arabia to jointly market and develop the type in the MENA region. Calidus also announced a partnership to promote and distribute Korean Air’s range of UAVs.