With beaming smiles and a handshake that embodies the close ties between Team Redstone partners, the Program Executive Office for Aviation and the Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center have celebrated a milestone in aviation acquisition.

The handshake, along with delivery of the logbook inventory, took place March 8 during a ceremony marking the official handover of the first UH-60V Black Hawk prototype helicopter from the Prototype Integration Facility to the UH-60V Product Office, and then to the Redstone Test Center. The handover follows the aircraft's successful first flight, Jan. 19.

The UH-60V will be conversions of older analog UH-60Ls, installing a new, digitized cockpit in the last remaining non-digital aircraft in the Army fleet. The upgraded cockpit has a similar pilot-vehicle interface to that of the UH-60M aircraft.

The digitized cockpit in the 60-Vs will raise their situational awareness and connectivity to the level of the UH-60M model, said Lt. Col Andy Duus, product manager for the UH-60V helicopter, who accepted the aircraft on behalf of the Army.

"By doing that (digitizing the cockpit) we really increase the Army aviators' ability to conduct the missions they have to perform," Duus said. "They can spend more time (looking) outside the cockpit instead of focusing inside, because we're making it very easy for him or her to understand exactly what's going on in a nice, single viewpoint of a multi-function display, which is critical to how we fight and win our wars."

From an acquisition standpoint, the UH-60V program is a stark departure from the heavy reliance of an original equipment manufacturer. Instead, the effort will leverage government owned and operated facilities, led by the capabilities of several Team Redstone organizations.

AMRDEC's Prototype Integration Facility designed and developed the upgrade solution. Besides the aircraft handed over during the ceremony, the PIF will develop two additional upgraded aircraft and corresponding technical data package. Developmental testing on the aircraft will be conducted at the Redstone Test Center.

To develop and execute a solution of this scope "in house" is a significant accomplishment, and serves as a prime example of the outcomes that can be achieved in leveraging Team Redstone capabilities.

"A lot of folks thought that only an OEM would be capable of doing this, but we knew better," Duus said. "We understood the technical expertise that resided at the PIF and also within Team Redstone. We went all in, and what resulted (was) an aircraft that flew on time and on target."

By using a government developer, the H-60V program ensures the government owns the technical data package that will support open competition of suppliers for just about everything; from permanent aircraft modifications such as the enclosures, brackets, circuit breakers, and wiring, to production of the actual end item and accessories that can be removed from the hard mounts. The government also retains software development rights as the program transitions into the production and support phases.

Besides the aircraft that are being developed at Redstone Arsenal, the program will leverage government owned capabilities at other locations. Corpus Christi Army Depot, Texas, will produce two aircraft in support of operational testing and manufacturing validation. Upon entering the production phase, the H-60 recapitalization line there will be used for the installation of the production kits.

Although the UH-60V was designed and developed using government owned and operated capabilities, private industry still played a big part in the development of the program.

"To our industry teammates, you are pioneers," PIF Manager Danny Featherson said of the role prime contractor Redstone Defense Systems and others played in supporting the facility during the development of the cockpit. "Your companies were selected to get this done, and I thank you."

The handover of the UH-60V prototype represents a significant milestone in the UH-60V program and moves one step closer to getting an enhanced, modern air capability to the operational force. Equally important, it demonstrates a successful collaborative effort between the military and industry that can serve as a cost effective solution to meet future Army aviation acquisition requirements.