In 1978, Sikorsky delivered the first Black Hawk to the U.S. Army. Over the last four decades, the Black Hawk has steadfastly flown in and out of countless combat zones and natural disaster areas to save lives and deliver critical supplies. Now, more than 4,000 Black Hawks are in service, providing vital military and commercial aviation support to the U.S. and 30 other countries around the world. We thank our customers for their dedication and service as they continue to operate the world’s most reliable utility helicopter.
Ships, Seahawks and Stratford
My relationship with this aircraft goes back several years. USS Stephen W. Groves (FFG 29) was named for my late uncle, Ens. Stephen W. Groves, USNR. I stood on the forecastle when the ship was launched in 1981. So, how is this a Seahawk story? The ship's flight deck was lengthened by 15 feet in 1988 to accommodate the Navy's fine Sikorsky-made aircraft. Being a sponsor family allowed us to see Seahawks stored in the ship's hangars from time to time. Not allowed to ride on one, I still was amazed by these fine aircraft, and the videos and photographs of the landings and take-offs that these aircraft could do at sea while the ship was underway. I have a unit patch or two from helo aviators who were attached to the ship for duty. When the ship was decommissioned in 2012, I thought all of the fun was over with. Not so! In 2016, I was hired on full-time in Stratford as an Environmental Safety and Health specialist, working in the Blades Product Center. Never in a million years did I think that I'd be working at the factory where the magnificent aircraft that landed on my uncle's namesake ship had been built. I've enjoyed seeing them, bright and new, out in the hangar getting ready for first flight. The Seahawk variant is therefore my most favorite of the types built here in Stratford, and I sometimes wonder if the spars that I see going through O&R are from blades that belonged to aircraft that had been kept aboard ship.
~ Brian G.
The Next 50 Years
Sikorsky continues to build H-60M Black Hawk aircraft for the U.S. Army, which is expected to operate the platform into the 2070s. We continue to modify the Black Hawk to meet the mission requirements of its customers and have produced several successful H-60 variants:
- The MH-60R Seahawk is a UH-60-based maritime variant in operation and deployed by the U.S. Navy, as well as numerous international military customers. Its primary missions are anti-submarine warfare and surface warfare, while secondary missions include search and rescue, vertical replenishment, naval surface fire support, logistics support, communications relay, personnel transport, and medical evacuation.
- Additionally, the U.S. Air Force currently operates the HH-60G Pavehawk combat rescue helicopter. In February of this year, Sikorsky began the final assembly process of the first HH-60W Combat Rescue Helicopter (CRH) to replace this long-serving variant. The “Whiskey” model is based on the proven technology of the latest Black Hawk model, the UH-60M, and is expected to take its first flight by year-end.
Sikorsky also continues to field new mission capabilities for the Black Hawk:
- An aerial firefighting system, complete with belly tank, that can easily retrofit to existing S-70i fleets;
- A sophisticated weapons system for the S-70i™ and S-70M models that enables pilots to engage static or moving targets with high accuracy using forward firing guns, rockets and laser-designated air-to-ground missiles.
Sikorsky also is developing an optionally piloted capability utilizing its MATRIX™ Technology with the intelligence and autonomy to carry out missions with two, one or zero crew members on board. This technology is flying on the company’s commercial S-76® helicopter, the Sikorsky Autonomy Research Aircraft (SARA). Sikorsky expects first flight of the optionally piloted Black Hawk in 2018.