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How Black Hawk Helicopters Work

        Science | Modern

Providing Combat Support
Military or combat support requires moving many troops and tons of equipment to locations where planes or ground-based vehicles often can't reach. The Black Hawk was designed with these types of logistical missions in mind. Combining power and an adaptable configuration, the Black Hawk can ferry thousands of pounds of equipment, weapons, and nearly a dozen men to remote locations quickly.


Photo courtesy Department of Defense - Defense Visual Information Center
U.S. Army Paratroopers board a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter.

Three crewmembers are required to operate the UH-60L Black Hawk, including two pilots and one crew chief. In addition to the crew, the Black Hawk can carry 11 fully equipped soldiers. Multiple tie-downs on the cabin floor allow the interior and seat arrangements to be reconfigured to accommodate varied missions.


Photo courtesy Department of Defense - Defense Visual Information Center
A UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter assigned hovers above the Prince Sultan Air Base, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, during a training session.


Photo courtesy Department of Defense - Defense Visual Information Center
A UH-60 Black Hawk removes a destroyed Iraqi anti-aircraft gun from the rooftop of a building during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Externally, the Black Hawk uses its External Stores Support System (ESSS) to carry additional cargo. The ESSS consists of removable stub wings that attach to each side of the fuselage above the cabin. Each wing has two pylons, which can carry a total of 9,000 pounds (~4,082 kg) of external loads, including fuel tanks, electronic countermeasure (ECM) pods, 16 Hellfire anti-armor missiles (16 additional missiles can be carried internally for reload), guns, and mine dispensers. A cargo hook located on the undercarriage gives the helicopter another method for carrying heavy loads, such as small vehicles, artillery, and large amounts of supplies.

Inside the cockpit, the pilots can use an auto-flight control system that includes autopilot and autostabilization features. The navigational equipment includes:

  • An AN/ASN-128 Doppler search radar (a radar altimeter that collects elevation signals used to determine topographical features)
  • An Automatic Direction Finder (ADF)
  • A VOR/marker beacon


Photo courtesy Department of Defense - Defense Visual Information Center
A soldier directs a U.S. Army UH-60L onto the flight deck of the USS Constellation aircraft carrier.

Although it was not designed to be an assault vehicle like the Apache, the Black Hawk must be loaded with equipment for the crew and passengers to protect themselves in flight and on the ground. In the next section, we'll look at some of the built-in protections and artillery that provide defense for the Black Hawk.


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