Homestead, Florida - February 5, 2011 (5:44pm)   UH-60 Black Hawk. Manufacturer: Sikorsky Aircraft. Type: Multi-role medium helicopter. Powerplant: Two General Electric T700-GE-701C turboshafts. Principal armament: Two 7.62mm Six-Barrel Miniguns, 16 Hellfire anti-tank missiles. Carrying capacity: 11 troops or 8,000 pounds cargo. Maximum cruising speed: 160 miles per hour. By the late 1970’s, the Huey was looking long in the tooth and the Army arranged for a competion to find a replacement. Sikorsky won that competion and the Black Hawk was born. If the Huey is the helicopter that applied with Vietnam, the Black Hawk is the helicopter identified with post Cold War operations, with everything since the fall of the Berlin Wall. Nicknamed the Night Stalker, the Black Hawk is an evolutionary airframe. With its large cabin, it can fulfill a number of mission sets including MedEvac, reconnaissance, command and control, and resupply. It can also take 11 fully-armed troops into battle and has the capability to carry a formidable payload of missiles, rockets, canons and electronic countermeasures.As an evolution from let’s say the Huey, it is a much more modern aircraft: It does have integrated night flying systems, it does have integrated navigation GPS systems, so, whereas the Huey pilot might have to have a crumpled map folded on his lap to figure out where he’s going, the Black Hawk pilot has things like heads up displays and night vision get him where he’s going night or day, and to the exact place he needs to go. The Black Hawk’s many innovations have made it a favorite with pilots across the world. The Black Hawk first tasted action in Grenada in 1983 and it’s been involved in every American campaign since. In 1991, the Black Hawk played a key role in the ground war to liberate Kuwait. 300 choppers carried 5,000 troops of the 101st Airborne deep into Iraqi territory and the concept of a heliport assault was invented. Black Hawk performed very well in the Gulf War. It had some problems in the desert like all other aircraft did like with sand. Improvements were made to the airframe to improve this and it’s operating there as we speak today.Of course, no helicopter that goes into combat is indestructible. On October 3rd, 1993, two Night Stalkers were shot down over Mogadishu and the phrase Black Hawk Down passed into legend. As tragic as that incident was, it hides the fact that the Black Hawk is a greedy survivor. As well as having protective armor that can withstand hits from 23mm shells, it has an array of cutting edge safety features. The Black Hawk has had the greatest record on crash worthiness of any of the helicopters in the US military today. The crew seats will stroke 12 inches so that means when the airplane hits the ground, their seat strokes 12 inches down, which absorbs an enormous amount of energy and their photograph of crashed Black Hawks in which the thing is totally destroyed, and you get a picture of the crew seats, they’re intact, the two pilots got out totally uninjured. With over 1,500 US Army Black Hawks flying worldwide, this backbone of America’s helicopter fleet looks like it’s going to be around for a while longer. If the maintenance office issues you a Black Hawk, it is going to be flyable no matter how much inspecting you do on it and it is gonna take you out into harm’s way and bring you back every single time. The Black Hawk’s unrivaled survivability scores it high marks while its versatility is also impressive.This photo was taken at the Mothers Against Drunk Driving’s 5K Walk Like MADD event, which took place at the Homestead Miami Speedway. (Nikon D50)

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