How Black Hawk Helicopters Work

Performance in Battle: Defense

Crossing the battlefield, the Black Hawk is an inviting target for enemy gun fire and anti-aircraft fire. Due to the nature of its combat role, the Black Hawk must be able to withstand these types of small- and medium-arms strikes.

Photo courtesy Department of Defense - Defense Visual Information Center
A soldier prepares to fire a 7.62-mm machine gun aboard an HH-60 Black Hawk helicopter during a training exercise.

The chopper's airframe is metal; other components, including floors, doors, and fairings, are composite. A fairing is used between joints of the helicopter to streamline those points for maneuverability and speed.

To reduce damage during attacks, the helicopter has built-in tolerance to small-arms fire and most medium-caliber, high-explosive projectiles, according to Sikorsky. If it is hit, it also has a self-sealing, crash-resistant fuel system and ballistic-hardened flight controls. Additionally, armored seats and swing-out armor side panels protect the pilots.

In case of emergency or hard landings, energy-absorbing landing gear and seats help protect crew and passengers. The Black Hawk can survive a vertical impact rate of 38 feet (11.6 m) per second. The fin connected to the end of the tail can be swiveled up and down to help control the helicopter if the tail rotor fails or is lost. Additional protection is built into the fuel cells, which are crashworthy from a drop as high as 65 feet (~20 m). Pilots can quickly escape after a crash by jettisoning the cockpit doors and exiting through the emergency pop-out windows.