Army Nation­al Guard Gets New Mede­vac Black Hawk Heli­copter

By Spc. John Hig­gins
Spe­cial to Amer­i­can Forces Press Ser­vice

BALTIMORE, Sept. 25, 2008 — Offi­cials unveiled a new med­ical evac­u­a­tion ver­sion of the Black Hawk heli­copter at the Nation­al Guard Asso­ci­a­tion of the Unit­ed States con­fer­ence here on Sept. 21.
The HH-60M Black Hawk is capa­ble of car­ry­ing up to six lit­ter patients or walk­ing wound­ed to the near­est med­ical treat­ment facil­i­ty, wher­ev­er that may be.

“This is all about sav­ing lives and pre­vent­ing suf­fer­ing,” said Lt. Gen. Clyde Vaughn, the direc­tor of the Army Nation­al Guard.

An avi­a­tion unit head­quar­tered in Ver­mont with a detach­ment in Mass­a­chu­setts will get the first M‑series off the assem­bly line. A total of 42 new Black Hawks will be deliv­ered to four states in fis­cal year 2009, and 60 by 2010.

“We are the first mede­vac unit field­ed,” said Col. Gar­rett Jensen, chief of the avi­a­tion and safe­ty branch for the Army Nation­al Guard. “It’s a mile­stone, and it’s real­ly a tes­ta­ment of … the Army’s ded­i­ca­tion to equip­ping the Guard.”

Offi­cials said the M‑series mod­i­fi­ca­tions ful­fill a “valu­able” med­ical need in an air­frame that is already a field-proven heli­copter in troop capac­i­ty, equip­ment and design. “It is the [work] horse of what we do in the Unit­ed States and around the world,” Vaughn said.

Chief War­rant Offi­cer 4 Stephen Sander­son, the state divi­sion safe­ty offi­cer for the Ver­mont Army Nation­al Guard, said the biggest change in this mod­el is the rotor sys­tem. “You’ll get anoth­er 545 pounds of lift from that and be able to oper­ate in a high, hot envi­ron­ment sub­stan­tial­ly bet­ter.”

The M‑model also has a big­ger engine, an all-glass cock­pit for bet­ter vis­i­bil­i­ty, an improved gear box for the main trans­mis­sion and an exter­nal­ly-mount­ed elec­tric hoist, “so you don’t lose the cab­in space,” Sander­son said.

“It’s a ful­ly dig­i­tal air­craft and has the abil­i­ty to com­mu­ni­cate with oth­er avi­a­tion and ground assets,” he added. “It’s a ful­ly cou­pled auto-pilot. The thing flies itself.”

The heli­copter also has a med­ical suite in the back with an onboard oxy­gen gen­er­at­ing sys­tem and cli­mate con­trol. The oxy­gen sys­tem, a vital com­po­nent of first med­ical response, runs off the engine’s air out­put.

“As long as the engines on the air­craft are run­ning or there is oxy­gen in the bot­tles (gas con­tain­ment cylin­ders), then you’ve got oxy­gen,” said Arthur E. Tor­wirt, vice pres­i­dent of prod­ucts divi­sion of Air Meth­ods Corp., the providers of the med­ical equip­ment in the M‑series.

Vaughn said these improve­ments allow the M‑series to fly “no kid­ding” life-sav­ing mis­sions quick­ly for ser­vice­mem­bers.

(Spc. John Hig­gins is assigned to the Nation­al Guard Bureau.)

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)