As the supplier of the Integrated Avionics Suite for the UH-60V Black Hawk helicopter, Northrop Grumman has delivered software for the helicopter to enter Limited User Testing – a critical milestone leading into production. (NOC Photo)
The U.S. Army’s development of more modern cockpits and a digital pilot-vehicle interface for legacy UH-60L Black Hawks is progressing, showing positive performance increasing pilot awareness similarly to the UH-60M cockpit and enhancing navigational functionality compared to the analogue UH-60L, but the digital upgrades do not appreciably improve the survivability of the aircraft, according to the Pentagon's Director of Operational Test and Evaluation (DOT&E).
The UH-60V BLACK HAWK is designed to modernize the existing UH-60L analog architecture to a digital infrastructure enabling a pilot-vehicle interface (PVI) similar to the UH-60M.
Additional work is ongoing to complete software development, improve reliability, develop a performance planning module for UH-60V engines, and improve the cybersecurity posture before IOT&E in 2019, according to the report.
An Army vulnerability analysis found “no appreciable difference between the UH-60V and the legacy UH-60L in force protection, aircraft attrition, and forced landing kills when engaged by armor-piercing incendiary threats, high explosive incendiary threats, and rocket-propelled grenades,” according to the DOT&E report.
The report also states a cybersecurity assessment identified “a number of potential insider and near-sider cyber-attack vectors,” adding that an adversarial assessment “confirmed that some of those vectors could be exploited.”
The UH-60V Victor program plans to upgrade legacy UH-60L models at a rate of at least 48 aircraft per year, eventually modernizing 760 Black Hawks to include capabilities that better match the most up-to-date UH-60M version of the utility helicopter, but at a lower cost.
DOT&E recommended the Army “continue to develop UH-60V software to address the frequent reliability failure modes … [and] eliminate or reduce the cybersecurity vulnerability.”
The primary contractor for the project is Redstone Defense Systems, and the Victor cockpit design was developed by Northrop Grumman.
The Army also identified “12 deficiencies and 43 shortcomings” during software testing in May 2018, though the DOT&E report states many of these shortcomings “have since been corrected and verified in flight testing.”
In addition to upgrading the UH-60L’s cockpits from analog to digital, the Victor design features an open architecture suitable for quick systems integration, which may be a critical component of the Army’s Future Vertical Lift program.