Weapon Wednesday – Replacing the UH-60 Black Hawk

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Defiant Vs. Valor: Inside the Head-to-Head Helo Battle To Replace the Black Hawk

The UH-60 Black Hawk is a helicopter legend, and the battle to replace it is heating up.

In 2022 the Army will choose a new aircraft to replace its Reagan-era UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter. Two contenders from Sikorsky-Boeing and Bell will battle it out to become the winner of the Service’s Future Long-Range Assault Aircraft (FLRAA) program and the Army’s next combat helo when it deploys in 2030.

But “helicopter” isn’t even the right word to describe these two aerial beasts.

black hawk

The Black Hawk helicopter.


Bell’s V-280 is actually a tilt-rotor, similar to the V-22 Osprey currently flown by the Marine Corps, Air Force, and Navy but smaller and with a V-tail. Rather than relying on a single large main rotor for lift in forward flight and vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) like a helicopter, it tilts two large rotors (called prop-rotors) at each of its wingtips 90 degrees from horizontal to vertical and back. It’s essentially an airplane in forward flight and twin-rotor helicopter in VTOL flight.

Meanwhile, Sikorsky-Boeing’s SB-1 might look like a normal helicopter, but it’s actually a “compound helicopter,” including stacked, counter-rotating main rotors, a pusher propeller, and aircraft-like rudders. The pusher-propeller can provide significant forward thrust, relieving the need to tilt its main rotor for forward flight. Counter-rotating main rotors give extra lift, stability and smoothness. This gives the SB-1 speed, climb, and VTOL advantages over normal helicopters.

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