Northrop Grumman [NOC] said Monday the UH-60V Black Hawk, which is a retrofit of the UH-60L upgraded with the company’s ‘digital cockpit’ suite and OpenLift architecture, has received official certification to fly in all conditions.

The Army Systems Readiness Directorate granted an Instrument Flight Rules (IFR) Airworthiness Release for the UH-60V as the program heads into a second initial operational test and evaluation phase.

Northrop Grumman’s digital cockpit will keep the U.S. Army’s legacy Black Hawk aircraft in the fight for decades to come. The system recently completed initial operational test and evaluation. (Photo courtesy of the U.S. Army)

“Achieving IFR airworthiness is a major milestone for the UH-60V with OpenLift,” Lindsay McEwen, Northrop Grumman’s vice president for navigation, targeting and survivability, said in a statement. “Aircrews can now experience the unique capabilities of this open architecture aircraft under all conditions.”

The UH-60V program is designed to retrofit the L-model Black Hawks with capability comparable to the UH-60M, with the OpenLift-powered architecture enabling more rapid integration of new avionics capabilities.

“The pilot-vehicle interface is nearly identical to that of the UH-60M, enabling common training and operational employment,” Northrop Grumman wrote in a statement. “Open, safe and secure, the UH-60V has achieved airworthiness for its multicore processor – a first for an Army Black Hawk helicopter. This allows the flight-critical systems to be separated safely from the mission software and enables the use of third-party applications.”

Northrop Grumman said it has also demonstrated its OpenLift architecture on an AH-64E Apache, adding it has potential to be extended for use with other platforms in the Army’s enduring helicopter and its planned Future Vertical Lift platforms. 

The Army previously noted the 1st Battalion of the 106th Aviation Regiment will be the first tactical unit to receive UH-60Vs, with fielding set to be completed by the end of fiscal year 2022 (Defense Daily, July 28 2021). 

The UH-60V program is expected to include converting 760 total UH-60L model aircraft to new, modernized configuration, according to the Army.

“By re-capitalizing the current legacy fleet, the Army will be able to deliver the modernized UH-60V for significantly less than the cost of a new aircraft,” the Army’s Program Executive Office for Aviation has said previously. “The updated cockpit increases a pilot’s situational awareness while reducing the workload, resulting in a more capable and safer aviation platform.”

The Army conducted the first flight of a fully-upgraded UH-60V model helicopter in September 2020 (Defense Daily, Sept. 14 2020).