The UH-60A, UH-60L, and UH-60M: What Are the Differences?

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Black Hawk UH-60 variations

On our news page, we like to provide worthwhile information to our clients and site visitors on a wide range of topics, which can include company updates, industry insights, posts about aviation history, and more.

Since we regularly work with organizations and companies who utilize Black Hawks, writing about these helicopters is something we do often. With that in mind, we thought we would craft a post for those looking to learn more about these vehicles, so read on to discover key differences in some prominent models.

About Black Hawk UH-60 Helicopters

The Black Hawk UH-60 helicopter is the U.S. Army’s utility transport helicopter. It is known as the “workhorse” for the United States and other forces around the world. The first UH-60 Black Hawk was released in 1979, and the helicopter remains a vital tool in military efforts today. The versatility, ruggedness, and adaptability to mission scenarios that the UH-60 possesses are what makes it so valuable.

The History of the Black Hawk UH-60A

The first Black Hawk helicopter produced by Sikorsky was the Black Hawk UH-60A, which was initially approved for production in 1978 and released in 1979. The UH-60A was designed to replace the U.S. Army’s previous tactical transport helicopter, the Bell UH-1 Iroquois. The name “Black Hawk” was chosen in honor of Black Hawk, the warrior of the Sauk Native American tribe.

Originally delivered to the 101st and 82nd Airborne Divisions, the UH-60A went on to log over 9 million fleet hours, and served roles in military operations in Grenada, Panama, Iraq, Afghanistan, throughout the Middle East, and more.

These helicopters were produced until 1989, at which point they were supplanted by updated models. However, the U.S. Army has equipped some UH-60A models with more powerful engines to bring them up to the same standard as the later UH-60L models. These upgraded UH-60A models became known as UH-60A+.

The Black Hawk UH series is the Army’s primary tactical transport helicopter and has been prized by its aviation department. Additionally, thirty allied nations also utilize some form of the Black Hawk UH series.

The Black Hawk UH-60A Model

Some of the key aspects of this model include:

  • Designed to carry a crew of three, along with eleven fully equipped combat troops, with the maximum capacity being twenty lightly equipped personnel
  • Utilized for search and rescue missions, combat assault, firefighting, external lift, VIP and troop transport, and medevac
  • The helicopter features an external cargo hook that is rated at 8,000 lb
  • Black Hawks incorporate two General Electric T700-GE-701 turboshaft engines with 1,560 shaft horsepower for each, and the helicopter is able to fly on a single one of these engines if need be
  • As standard, the UH-60A does not feature a dedicated weapons system, but does house two pintle mounts on either side to equip a wide array of weapons, including the M-60 GP 7.62 mm machine gun, the .50 caliber GAU-19/A machine gun, and more
  • The UH-60A houses a dragging tail wheel landing gear system, although for uses in the Arctic or other snowy areas the helicopter can be equipped with landing skis
  • The range for the UH-60A is approximately 300 nautical miles and it can reach a maximum speed of 222 mph (193 kn), with a cruising speed of 170 mph (150 kn)
  • With the Army’s divestiture of UH-60As as part of the BEST program, the civilian market began to acquire these units for various uses

The Black Hawk UH-60L Model

The UH-60L debuted in 1989. While it had no alteration to the rotor system of the UH-60A, other components were updated. Some of the key aspects of this model include:

  • An upgraded set of T700-GE-701C/D turboshaft engines
  • Improvements to the transmission, flight control systems, and structure
  • An improved and upgraded Durability Main Gearbox, or IDGB
  • An enhanced tail boom, stabilator, and vibration absorbers
  • Upgraded wide chord rotor blades
  • Flight controls which had been strengthened
  • Rated for all the same weapons systems as the UH-60A model
  • A hover IR suppression system, or HIRSS, was incorporated to facilitate the cooling of engine exhaust gasses while hovering and in forward flight
  • The previous external cargo hook capacity of 8,000 lb was increased by an additional 1,000 lb to make it graded at 9,000 lb
  • The troop capacity has been unaltered from the UH-60A, allowing for eleven fully loaded troops, or fourteen high-density troops, or twenty lightly equipped troops

The Black Hawk UH-60M Model

The UH-60M Black Hawk helicopter was created in the early 2000s and introduced into service for the United States Army in 2007. Some of the key aspects of the UH-60M model include:

  • Upgraded electronic displays within the cockpit
  • An upgraded centralized processor with a partitioned, modular operational flight program that allows for abilities to be incorporated as software-specific alterations
  • A new airframe, along with more advanced digital avionics and an enhanced propulsion system
  • An upgraded pair of T700-GE-701D engines
  • Better handling and improved active vibration control
  • Features a 3-point dual-energy absorbing landing gear
  • Foldable main and tail rotor blades that are protected from ballistic damage
  • Ability to fly at a max cruise speed of 280 km/h, with a max range of 511 km, while its hovering-in-ground-effect ceiling is 3,206 m and its hovering-out-of-ground-effect ceiling is 1,831 m

One interesting aspect about the Black Hawk UH-60M is that a modified version of this helicopter was used in the mission by SEAL Team Six in the hunt for Osama Bin Laden. Based on the recovered portion of the destroyed helicopter, a number of features were seen, including:

  • Low-observable technology to help it evade Pakistani radar
  • Additional blades on the tail rotor and other noise reduction measures, making the adapted unit quieter than standard UH-60 models
  • High-tech materials, harsh angles, and flat surfaces – more commonly seen on stealth jets – all to reduce detection

The Future of the Black Hawk UH-60 Series: UH-60V Model

As of April 2022, the UH-60V Black Hawk helicopter, an upgrade on the UH-60L model, is now qualified to fly in national airspace. The UH-60V is the first aircraft to align to the Army’s Future Airborne Capability Environment standards, which is a huge milestone for the U.S. Army.

Some of the UH-60V’s features include:

    • Updated cockpit – The new UH-60V cockpit houses advanced digital displays to heighten situational awareness and reduce work on the crew
    • Advanced avionics – The integrated avionics suite from Northrop Grumman features updated electronics designed to enhance the helicopter’s capabilities in different mission scenarios. The new elements include updated communication, navigation, and surveillance systems.
    • Open architecture – The UH-60V design is crafted with an open architecture system that allows for upgrades and integration of new technologies in the future.

The UH-60V Black Hawk has been created to conduct missions that include air assault, aerial command and control, air movement, and medical evacuations.

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When it comes to aerospace manufacturing, we have diverse capabilities, including supplying Black Hawk UH-60 Phase Maintenance Kits. Be sure to contact our team today about any of our services or to ask our experts questions. We’ll be happy to help.