Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) is urging the Pentagon to investigate the ‘disturbing trend’ of recent UH-60 Black Hawk crashes and to provide an assessment of the helicopter’s operational readiness.
In a letter sent on Feb. 5, Gillibrand also calls on Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to provide a classified briefing on the recent crashes involving members of the National Guard and the department’s plans to address any mechanical, software or electrical issues that could have led to the incidents.
“These recent helicopter crashes are tragic and reveal a disturbing trend that must be investigated,” Gillibrand said in a statement. “When our brave service members put on their uniforms and go to work, they should have confidence their command is looking out for the safety and readiness of their equipment. I’m urging the DoD to launch a comprehensive investigation of these UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter crashes to determine if there is a pattern.”
Gillibrand cites three recent UH-60 crashes involving members of the National Guard over the last 14 months: a December 2019 incident near St. Cloud, Minnesota where an engine failure led to three lives lost; a crash on Jan. 20, 2021 where three members of the New York National Guard died during a routine training mission; and a crash outside of Boise less than two weeks later on Feb. 2 where three members of the Idaho National Guard were killed.
She also notes that in August 2020 a crash near San Clemente Island in California involving the MH-60 variant of the Black killed two service members of the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment.
“Accordingly, I ask that you take all necessary steps to promptly investigate these incidents to determine if they fit a larger pattern of malfunction with the UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter. If so, I ask that the Department of Defense produce recommendations and guidance regarding the operational readiness of the UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter and its crew to ensure the safety of our service members,” Gillibrand wrote in the letter.
Gillibrand also asks Austin to provide a briefing on potential UH-60 malfunction issues and plans to mitigate problems as soon as the department completes its investigation.