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New Black Hawks all digital

16th CAB begins upgrade of its helicopter fleet as 30 new user-friendly UH-60M models arrive

16th CAB Public Affairs

Published: 04:20PM January 24th, 2013

Sgt. Adrianna Barnes

Soldiers of 2-158 AHB examine one of their 30 new Black Hawks Jan. 7 on JBLM’s Gray Army Airfield.

The 2nd Battalion, 158th Assault Helicopter Regiment began fielding 30 new UH-60M Black Hawk helicopters to replace the current UH-60L models Jan 7. The unit is scheduled to finish receiving equipment sometime between late February and early March.

The new model UH-60M Black Hawk features a complete digital cockpit versus the previous analog cockpit, making it more user-friendly for aviators. The digital cockpit improves situational awareness and reduces workload within the aircraft for aircrews. The improvements allow aviators to focus more on battle tasks and supporting ground units.

“These upgrades are a part of the ongoing effort to modernize the 16th CAB. I had experience with the UH-60M when I was a battalion commander and the Army did a great job fielding this aircraft,” said Col. Robert Dickerson, 16th CAB commander.

Major upgrades include newly-added Multifunctional Display systems, an improved GPS navigation system, a multiband radio, autopilot, rotor brakes, and the ability for the aircraft to self-diagnose main tenance problems.

The new MFD system consolidates various control systems originally spread throughout the cockpit into centralized display panels. Information can now be quickly accessed by pilots from a single station.

“The MFD makes it easier to retrieve information, monitor the aircraft systems and transition between the various display pages,” said Chief Warrant Officer 5 Eric Oleson, 2-158 AHB Black Hawk pilot. “It’s like a one-stop shop to retrieve desired information to safely operate the aircraft.”

Inputting routes and rerouting for new and changing missions can now be done at the touch of a screen. Bulky battlefield management equipment that was once operated off a knee pad is now integrated into the MFD and part of the cockpit basic functions.

The upgraded navigation system integrates satellites and an improved navigation system into the MFD. The new navigation system features a moving map display that projects the aircraft’s current location onto the map and tracks its movement more accurately. These improvements allow operators to rapidly input routes and navigation points, while increasing aircrew situational awareness and improving support to the Soldiers on the ground.

“The new navigation system is more accurate in tracking the aircraft’s exact location, especially during times when we lose satellite reception. You can also now input points on the moving map simply by pointing-and-clicking,” Oleson said.

Previous Black Hawk models used up to five separate radios for communication purposes. The new UH-60M features a single, multiband radio that picks up on all the various bands and frequencies, and is managed through the MFD.

The new rotor brake quickly stops the rotation of the blades rather than letting them gradually slow to a halt. Applying a brake to the blades is especially helpful when conducting shipboard landing qualifications and expedited passenger loading.

The UH-60M has a built-in vehicle health management system that is more accurate than its predecessors and saves man hours and money while performing maintenance tasks.

“It is a more user-friendly system to navigate and allows maintenance personnel to accomplish tasks quicker,” said Chief Warrant Officer 3 Nick Sue, 2-158 AHB maintenance test pilot.

The new helicopter has the capability for the aircraft to self-diagnose problems based on parts wear and vibration data. It is more efficient and cost effective to only do services when a part is worn than to base maintenance primarily on time or mileage.

Before flying the new airframes, pilots will undergo a six-week training course that incorporates classroom instruction, simulated flight time and actual hands-on training in the UH-60M. In addition, mandated training for crew chiefs and maintenance personnel to help familiarize themselves with the new systems and job related requirements will be implemented.

Upon completion of training, Soldiers of 2-158 AHB will continue to familiarize themselves for several months on the new systems in relation to battle tasks before integrating them into National Training Center rotations scheduled for later this year.

The aircraft upgrade is essential in preparing the unit’s Soldiers for upcoming rotations at NTC, said Lt. Col. Bryan Hoff, 2-158 AHB commander.

“It’s important to get this generation of ‘Warhawks’ trained so the next generation of ‘Warhawks’ can focus on tactical missions,” Hoff said.