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 [NOC].
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.