Development of the Black Hawk began in the 1970s when the United States Army sought a helicopter to replace the Bell UH-1 Iroquios. The requirements for the new helicopter included better reliability, survivability, and lower life-cycle costs compared to the UH-1. At the same time, the U.S. Army also began developing a new turbine engine for its helicopters that’ll become the General Electric T700, which the Black Hawk currently uses.
Boeing and Sikorsky (now owned by Lockheed Martin) built four prototypes for the U.S. Army beginning in 1974. In 1976, the Army selected Sikorsky’s UH-60A prototype as the winning bidder. Deliveries began in 1978, and in June 1979, the UH-60 helicopter officially entered service.
The Black Hawk was originally built to transport troops, but, after entering service, it was modified for new roles such as medical evacuation, mine laying, and electronic warfare. In 1978, the U.S. Navy selected a helicopter based on the Black Hawk for maritime warfare and secondary search and rescue– it was designated the SH-60B Seahawk. The U.S. Air Force uses a variant called the MH-60G/HH-60G Pave Hawk and the U.S. Coast Guard uses the MH-60T Jayhawk.
29 countries, including the US, currently use the Black Hawk. South Korea, Japan, and Colombia are the primary foreign users. Colombia was the first foreign user, having purchased a few Black Hawks from the U.S. government in 1987. That same year, Australia took delivery of its first Black Hawk.
Mexico, Brazil, and Israel received Black Hawks in the 1990s. Recent buyers include Sweden, which got its first delivery in 2012; Slovakia in 2017; Poland in 2019; and the Philippines in 2020. Other notable operators include the United Arab Emirates, Brunei, Qatar, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia.
The Chinese Air Force uses a civilian variant of the Black Hawk called the S-70. It also has a domestic helicopter based on the Black Hawk– the Harbin Z-20.
Fast Facts about the Black Hawk
- Maximum gross weight – 9,979 kg / 22,000 lbs.
- Crew – Two pilots, two crew chiefs
- It can transport 12 fully equipped, seated troops into battle.
- It can attach wings to carry firing guns, rockets, and missile fire.