FORT INDIANTOWN GAP, Pa. – On the outside, the new UH-60V Black Hawk helicopters look nearly identical to previous variants of the UH-60.
It’s what’s on the inside that sets them apart.
The UH-60V – referred to as the “Victor” – was developed with to overhaul the aging UH-60A and L fleets. The new model has several technological advancements that make it easier to operate than older variants, including an upgraded digital glass cockpit, certified GPS RNAV database and advanced flight planning and mission capability.
The Pennsylvania National Guard’s Eastern Army National Guard Aviation Training Site at Fort Indiantown Gap received six Victors in July. Since then, over 20 instructor pilots at EAATS have become certified to teach other pilots how to operate them.
Chief Warrant Officer 4 Frank Madeira, an instructor pilot at EAATS, said the Victor is a major upgrade over previous variants.
“For the Guard, it’s going to be a big upgrade because of the digital interface,” he said. “Now everything is displayed on the screens. There’s no what they call steam gauges or regular gauges like you have in your car. It’s all digital information that’s being pushed on the screen for you to look at, and they can move it to where they need it to be on the screen.”
Chief Warrant Officer 4 Justin Meyer, also an instructor pilot at EAATS and the UH-60V course manager, said transitioning to the Victor is relatively seamless for pilots who’ve flown both UH-60 A/Ls and UH-60Ms.
“The digital aspect, I think a lot of people grasp that quickly,” he said. “After a few flights, I think everyone feels fairly comfortable with flying the aircraft.”
One of the biggest upgrades, Meyer said, is a “time-ahead, time-behind” feature that calculates an estimated time of arrival based on the distance and the aircraft’s speed. The feature, which has been standard on smartphone apps and civilian GPS devices, wasn’t available on A/Ls, he said.
“You’re not going to be late with a mission, and you give yourself a hard time to get there,” he said. “The whole time, it’s telling you, ‘Hey, you’re this fast or you’re this slow.’”
“You can actually see every leg of your flight and how long it’s going to take you to get there by airspeed,” Madeira added. “The time-ahead, time-behind is phenomenal. It lets you know, ‘You’re 30 seconds behind. Speed it up.’”
Madeira said that the Victors’ software gets updated pretty regularly, and it’s easier to update than older variants.
“Once you start getting more comfortable with the aircraft and its capabilities, and you know what it can do, that next upgrade makes it even better because you already have the foundation,” he said. “That’s probably the toughest part in the beginning, getting that time in the aircraft to understand its capabilities, and then once you understand the capabilities and they come out with a change, you’re like, ‘Cool.’”
Lt. Col. Timothy Zerbe, Pennsylvania’s state Army aviation officer, said the UH-60V is scheduled to undergo initial operational testing and evaluation next summer. This will validate the UH-60V program accomplishments and standards to move from low to full production.
In late October, four Illinois Army National Guard pilots became the first students to graduate from the UH-60V course at EAATS. They will return to their unit to train other pilots, and they will also take part in the IOT and E.
“The IOT and E is the test that certifies whether this aircraft can do what the Army needs it to do,” Zerbe said. “Once that’s determined, the Army will ramp up production.”
If all goes according to plan, the Pennsylvania National Guard is expected to receive 10 additional UH-60Vs, Zerbe said. They will most likely be assigned to C Co., 1-230th Assault Helicopter Battalion in Johnstown, he said.
“The UH-60V is a great aircraft,” Zerbe said. “The technological advancements it brings are a major upgrade to previous UH-60 models, and it will give the Army greater capabilities on the battlefield.”