Aircrews from 2nd Bn., 158th Aviation Regt., 16th CAB at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, prepare the cockpit and conduct final pre-mission checks during operational tests of Army modernization efforts with a new digital cockpit in the UH–60V Black Hawk helicopter. 

JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Washington — Combat aviators here are conducting operational tests of Army modernization efforts using three UH-60V Black Hawk helicopters.

The UH-60V Black Hawk will refit the Army’s remaining UH-60L helicopter fleet’s analog cockpits with a digital cockpit, similar to the UH-60M helicopter.

Refitting aircraft that are already owned by the Army is a major cost saving measure over purchasing new builds, according to Mr. Derek Muller, UH-60V IOT Test Officer, with the West Fort Hood, U.S. Army Operational Test Command’s Aviation Test Directorate.

Muller and his test team worked with aircrews from Company A, 2nd Battalion, 158th Aviation Regiment, 16th Combat Aviation Brigade, by applying realistic operational missions, post-mission surveys and after action reviews along with onboard video and audio instrumentation to collect data directly from crewmembers.

Instrumentation provided audio, video and position data for test team to review after each mission.

“The data collected during the test will support an independent evaluation by the U.S. Army Evaluation Center,” Muller said.

The evaluation will inform a full-rate production decision later this year from the Utility Helicopter Program Office at Redstone Arsenal, Alabama.

Aircrews flew over 120 hours under realistic battlefield conditions. They conducted air movement, air assault, external load and casualty evacuation missions under day, night, night-vision goggle and simulated instrument meteorological modes of flight.

The U.S. Army Center for Countermeasures employed three types of threat simulations to stimulate the aircraft’s survivability equipment and trigger pilot actions using the updated cockpit capabilities.

“The three independent threat simulation systems enhanced the quality of the test and enriched the combat-like environment,” Muller said.

“Using Blue Force Tracking, the test operations cell and Battalion Operations Center tracked and communicated with crews during missions,” Chief Warrant Officer 4 Toby Blackmon, Test Operations Officer in Charge, USAOTC AVTD, said.

New equipment collective training and operational testing caused Co. A to focus on several critical areas, including mission planning, secure communications, aircraft survivability equipment and internal/external load operations, improving its overall mission readiness while meeting operational test requirements.

“Moreover,” Muller said, “the test’s rigorous operational tempo provided an ideal opportunity for 2-158th Aviation Regiment to exercise key army battle command systems including, but not limited to, Blue Force Tracker, secure tactical communications and mission planning.”