In Focus

Profile: Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk

An Australian Army Black Hawk helicopter lands at Blamey Barracks, Kapooka, during 6th Aviation Regiment’s Exercise Enduring Valour 2021 (Defence/CPL Dustin Anderson)

The Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk is a tried-and-tested workhorse utility helicopter for militaries around the globe. First introduced into the US Army in 1979, the UH-60 Black Hawk answers the US need for a robust, durable, and reliable utility helicopter system. In the 43 years since, Black Hawk has accumulated over 9 million flight hours around the world, and been utilised by military powers on basically every continent, including China, Brazil, Israel, Poland and more.

Australia similarly has a long history with Black Hawk. In 1986, the Australian Government ordered 12 A-70A-9 Black Hawks, and a further 25 platforms in 1987. The first Black Hawk was delivered to the Royal Australian Air Force in 1987, and was later transferred to Army. In the 34 years of initial service, Australia’s Black Hawks performed operational duties in Cambodia, Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, East Timor and Pakistan. Australia ultimately favoured the MRH-90 Taipan over Black Hawk in 2004 due to its lack of armour and self-defence systems. However, due to the MRH-90’s operational difficulties, the retirement of Army’s remaining Black Hawk fleet was delayed from 2018 until 2021. On 10 December, 2021, the same day that Defence announced the retirement of its Taipan fleet, the last S-70A-9 Black Hawks were retired from service. Next-generation Black Hawks are now tipped to replace the abandoned Taipan fleet.

Last seen: December 2021, an Army Black Hawk delivered then-Minister of Defence Peter Dutton to Victoria barracks in Sydney, to announce the retirement of the Taipan fleet.

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