ATLANTA — The US Army plans to fly its Victor-model UH-60 Black Hawk for the first time in January 2017, Brig. Gen. Bob Marion, the service's aviation program executive officer, said Saturday at the Army Aviation Association of America's Mission Solutions Summit.
Northrop Grumman won a contract in the spring of 2014 to swap out the old analog cockpits in the Army's UH-60 Black Hawk Lima-model helicopters with a new open-architecture digital cockpit.
The Army had to use innovative means to afford and develop the cockpit, which the service would have otherwise been unable to do, Marion said. Getting the program off the ground is due to a big cooperative effort between the Army's equipping peg and its sustaining peg.
The sustaining peg is going to fund the recapitalization of the L-model aircraft at Corpus Christi Army Depot (CCAD) in Texas.
Meanwhile, three prototypes are being developed at the Prototype Integration Facility (PIF) at Redstone Arsenal, Alabama. The PIF is a government organization set up to meet the Army's rapid prototyping needs.
The service is the prime integrator, while the original equipment manufacturer assumes more of a consulting role. The PIF, for example, was conducting the integration of the Cockpit and Sensor Upgrade Program (CASUP) for the OH-58 Kiowa helicopter. That program was canceled when the Army decided to retire the Kiowa as part of a larger restructuring of its aviation assets.
Ultimately, CCAD will integrate the cockpits into the L-models once the integration development work is done. This pathway is similar to the plan for Kiowa CASUP. CCAD was to conduct integration of the cockpits once the PIF finished the initial prototype work at its facility.
"We are going to put [the cockpits in] so that when we deliver it from a pilot vehicle interface standpoint there will be minimal training between someone who knows how to fly a UH-60 [Mike-model] and someone who is going to now fly a UH-60V," Marion said. "The idea here also is that It's not just minimal training in the airplane, it's that our training devices are going to operate the same way from a pilot's perspective."
The plan is to convert 760 L-model variants to the V-model. The V-model brings the L-model to an M-model standard, the most up-to-date variant of the Black Hawk.
Jen Judson is the land warfare reporter for Defense News. She has covered defense in the Washington area for 10 years. She was previously a reporter at Politico and Inside Defense. She won the National Press Club's best analytical reporting award in 2014 and was named the Defense Media Awards' best young defense journalist in 2018.