REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. (April 25, 2022) – It features one of the Army's most advanced avionics solutions and it was developed at Redstone Arsenal.
The UH-60V is now qualified to fly in all weather conditions of the national airspace. An instrument flight capability milestone for the U.S. Army, the UH-60V Black Hawk is the first aircraft to align to the Army’s Future Airborne Capability Environment standards or in layman’s terms, the equivalent of switching from a landline to a smartphone.
This modern marvel is the culmination of the work of two U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Aviation & Missile Center directorates – the Systems Readiness Directorate and the Software, Simulation, Systems Engineering and Integration Directorate – joining with Program Executive Office - Aviation, Utility Helicopters Project Office, Redstone Test Center and the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Command.
“This is certainly a significant day for the Army aviation materiel enterprise,” said DEVCOM AvMC Director Jeff Langhout. “The amount of rigor required to garner airworthiness at acceptable risk levels for aircraft operating in Instrument Meteorological Conditions is significant. The software, firmware and hardware that make up these flight critical systems had to go through excruciating qualification. To have all this government-owned, non-proprietary open architecture design and coding executed with personnel - in this case AvMC and Northrop Grumman designers and coders - not affiliated with the traditional original equipment manufacturer makes it all the more significant.
“This approach taken by PEO Aviation really gives our Army options moving forward as to acquisition strategies to include what makes the most sense with regard to intellectual property considerations.”
The Utility Helicopters Project Office delivered the first UH-60V helicopters to the National Guard in 2021. The architecture utilized in the UH-60V lays a strong foundation for the insertion of off-the-shelf hardware and software, enabling changes and updates to the system as it transforms the analog cockpit of a UH-60L Black Hawk into a digital cockpit on the UH-60V.
“60V helped identify the importance of government purpose rights for software at the component level to support software reuse in other systems,” said Miranda Oden, technical deputy for life cycle engineering at S3I. “60V also served as a precedent for Future Vertical Lift, in implementation of model-based software development.”
It includes a digital glass cockpit, a certified Global Positioning System receiver, an RNAV-capable Flight Management System and advanced mission capabilities. AvMC’s S3I directorate served as the design, development and integration provider for the first three UH-60V aircraft and conducted the design, fabrication, integration and software development to achieve the Instrument Flight Rules Air Worthiness Release.
AvMC’s SRD directorate was responsible for developing airworthiness requirements, evaluating technical data, assessing system safety and reviewing software documents to issue the AWR authorizing flight in Instrument Flight Rules/Instrument Meteorological Conditions in preparation for Initial Operational Test & Evaluation, scheduled for summer 2022.
“The initial aircraft delivered to the National Guard had been restricted to visual meteorological conditions,” said Chris Hodges, deputy director for Airworthiness at SRD. “Program Executive Officer Aviation Brig. Gen. Robert Barrie made a promise that this aircraft would by capable of Instrumented Flight Rules in Instrumented Meteorological Conditions in early 2022. SRD worked feverishly to help deliver on that promise as SRD Director Keith Darrow signed the first Airworthiness Release that allows for IFR in IMC on March 30, 2022.
“The accomplishment there was no easy task, as it required a good bit of sacrifice by our engineers to ensure the system met all expectations of our airworthiness qualification specification.”
Langhout praised AvMC’s partners at PEO Aviation and Utility Helicopter Projects Office who “entrusted the AvMC team to deliver and support the Aviation and Missile Command’s Corpus Christi Army Depot in ensuring a totally successful program.”
“The UH-60V program creates value for the Army by leveraging partnerships,” Barrie said. “We understand the vast capabilities and technical expertise resident within AvMC and our other Redstone teammates. Our industry and government teams partnered to affordably deliver enhanced capability to the Soldier.”
SRD and S3I reinvented their traditional business practices to meet the March deadline, despite the challenges associated with the ongoing global pandemic.
“It was a new way of working,” Hodges said, “but one that empowered the team and gave them a sense of ownership in what they were creating – which would be a historical step forward in Army modernization and a win for the platform. It’s like baseball. We might have had a person on shortstop and first, but we weren’t the whole team. We weren’t the only ones out there, but we were in the lineup and contributed to the win.”
The DEVCOM Aviation & Missile Center, headquartered at Redstone Arsenal, Alabama, is the Army’s research and development focal point for advanced technology in aviation and missile systems. It is part of the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command (DEVCOM), a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Futures Command. AvMC is responsible for delivering collaborative and innovative aviation and missile capabilities for responsive and cost-effective research, development and life cycle engineering solutions, as required by the Army’s strategic priorities and support to its Cross-Functional Teams.