By Sgt. Trenton Fouche
The Illinois Army National Guard has received new UH-60V Black Hawk helicopters, the latest rotary-wing aircraft in the Army’s inventory. The helicopters are assigned to the 106th Aviation Regiment, stationed in Kankakee and Decatur.
“We’ve upgraded from analog to digital technology. The UH-60V gives us a moving map on board for situational awareness. It has been a needed upgrade for a while, and this is the latest and greatest,” said Chief Warrant Officer (5) Herb Stevens, the Illinois National Guard’s Army Aviation Support Facility #2 Commander.
The Illinois Army National Guard was the first to receive the “V” model UH-60 Black Hawk. The updated model allows for enhanced situational awareness, something Stevens says will tremendously benefit Soldiers moving forward.
“This allows us to do different instrument approaches in a digital environment that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is moving to,” Stevens said.
Lt. Col. Jason Celletti, the Illinois Army National Guard’s State Aviation Officer, said that nearly 60 aviators needed to be trained to fly the UH-60V. This required the aviators to first become qualified in the Army’s previous digital UH-60 model, the “M” model, which was a 6-week qualification course. This was followed by a two-week training support plan to become qualified on the latest “V” model.
So far the Illinois Army National Guard has more than 30 aviators qualified on the UH-60M and about 15 fully-qualified UH-60V pilots. “We partnered with Army Operational Test Command, Eastern Army Aviation Training Center, and other various organizations throughout the Department of the Army to ensure the success of the “V” program,” Celletti said.
During the testing phase, air crews perform instrument and tactical flights to obtain data to ensure that the “V” model is meeting standards and warfighting principles.
“I’m really looking forward to the technology advancements,” said Chief Warrant Officer (2) Rachel Jones of the 106th Aviation Regiment. “This will help propel us into a more modern, updated electrical aircraft. It’s extremely important when you’re thinking about situational awareness.”
“The Illinois National Guard was selected to do this testing for the entire Army,” said Stevens. “We’re the only operational unit in the Army that has these aircrafts right now. We have two testing events coming up that will help determine if this aircraft is adequate for rest of the Army.”