The US Army wants initial funding next year to start a two-step avionics and powerplant modernisation programme for its Sikorsky UH-60A/L Black Hawk utility helicopters.

A Black Hawk modernisation programme calls for up to 613 UH-60As to be upgraded to UH-60L+, starting in 2002. Another 357 will be modernised to the UH-60Q medevac configuration. This will be followed by the remanufacture of 255 UH-60Ls to the UH-60X from around 2008.

The army is seeking an initial $31.4 million to begin UH-60L+ development work. Improvements will focus on installing a new digital cockpit, uprated General Electric T700-701C turboshafts offering 16% more power than the present engines and wide chord rotor blades. The army is aiming to cut operational and support costs by $600 per flight hour.

"A tiered evolutionary approach has been adopted to allow for an upgrade to the UH-60L+. It provides everything that is required with the exception of improved range and lift, which will need a new engine," explains Keith Roberson, US Army utility helicopters deputy project manager.

The army is to request funding in 2001 to begin preliminary work on a 2,240kW(3,000shp) Common Engine Programme (CEP) for the UH-60X and, later, the Boeing AH-64D Longbow Apache. It is intended to leverage technology from the AlliedSignal/GE Joint Advanced Turbine Gas Generator (JTAGG), which is entering its third demonstrator phase.

JTAGG 3 is targeting a 40% reduction in specific fuel consumption, 35% lower production and support costs and a 120% increase in power over that of the T700-701C. The army wants the UH-60X to be capable of lifting a 4,100kg (9,000lb) external load in hot-and-high conditions over a range of 300km (160nm). The UH-60A can carry less than half this weight over a similar range.

"The intention is to hold a competition and downselect before the engineering and manufacturing development phase," says Roberson. CEP is intended to be a drop-in replacement for the UH-60L's T700-701C engines, which will either be fitted to the upgraded UH-60L+, or put back into the army's spares inventory.

No decision has been taken on the selection of a common avionics suite for the UH-60L+/X, but it is likely to be based on the UH-60Q cockpit, which has Litton liquid crystal multifunction displays and Canadian Marconi CMA 2082A avionics management systems.

Source: Flight International