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May 22, 2020

What Will Succeed the UH-60 Black Hawk?

Which Helicopter Will Be the New Black Hawk?

The Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk has been the gold standard in military combat helicopters since it was first deployed in 1979. Now, as the Black Hawk nears retirement, two airframes have emerged as potential replacements.

Almost half a century old, the Black Hawk has been employed by almost 30 militaries worldwide. Bill Fell, who is a Sikorsky test pilot as well as an army veteran helicopter pilot, has been building Black Hawks for almost 50 years. In his opinion, the Black Hawk is “the greatest helicopter the world has ever known.”

The helo that replaces the Black Hawk will be chosen by the Future Long-Range Assault Aircraft (FLRAA) Program. The winning helicopter will be selected in 2022 and deployed in 2030. Industry insiders agree that the Black Hawk will be hard to beat. Here are the two top candidates as of today:

Bell V-280 Valor

The Bell V-280 resembles the V-22 Osprey. It’s a bit smaller and flaunts a V-tail. Instead of one large rotor assembly, like the Black Hawk, the V-280 tilts two large prop-rotors on each wingtip, like the Osprey. A tilt-rotor aircraft, the Valor behaves like an airplane while flying forward and like a twin-rotor helicopter in vertical takeoff.

Sikorsky-Boeing SB-1 Defiant

Sikorsky-Boeing, a client of Aerospace Manufacturing, has created what it calls a compound helicopter. This helo boasts “stacked, counter-rotating main rotors, a pusher propeller, and aircraft-like rudders” that equip the pusher propeller with strong forward thrust. That, in turn, reduces the need to tilt the primary rotor for forward flight.

The Defiant’s counter-rotating main rotors supply additional lift while delivering a smooth, steady ride. Aviation experts say the SB-1 has “speed, climb, take-off/landing advantages over normal helicopters.”

These designs meet the Army’s demand for a “multi-mission VTOL aircraft that flies much faster and farther than the workhorse Black Hawk.” The Army wants the new model to reach speeds of 230 knots (265 mph) or more. That’s 33.3 percent faster than the 159-knot (183 mph) twin-engine Black Hawk.

SB-1 Defiant or V-280 Valor?

Both helicopters have racked up extensive flying time, and both have showcased their talents in public displays. They differ from the UH-60 in the way they fly.

The Valor’s tilt rotor and the Defiant’s pusher propeller give pilots the ability to control thrust on multiple axes simultaneously. That confers agility that the UH-60 cannot achieve.

 

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