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

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.

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 lbs.
        • 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 7.62mm 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 Arctic or other snowy areas the helicopter can be equipped with landing skis
              • 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 lbs. was increased by an additional 1,000 lbs. to make it graded at 9,000 lbs.
                                • The troop capacity has been unaltered from the UH-60A – eleven fully loaded troops, or fourteen high-density troops, or twenty lightly equipped troops

                                The Black Hawk UH-60M Model

                                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 280km/h, with a max range of 511km, while its hovering-in-ground-effect ceiling is 3,206m and its hovering-out-of-ground-effect ceiling is 1,831m

                                              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

                                                  The next phase in the UH-60 series will be the adoption of the UH-60V model, which is being seen as an upgrade of the previous UH-60L model. Some of the features include:

                                                  • Incorporating a new glass cockpit configuration, which is the same configuration from the UH-60M
                                                    • An integrated avionics suite from Northrop Grumman
                                                      • Better situational awareness for pilots
                                                        • Increasing the commonality between the UH-60M and the new UH-60V, to better facilitate training and operation of either model

                                                        We will certainly be following developments of this new model, so don’t be surprised to see a post from us on it in the future.

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