On August 4th, the Drive published the first ever photograph of a heavily modified EH-60 electronic warfare and signals intelligence variant of the Black Hawk.
It appears to be one of the “missing links connecting the unique Black Hawk helicopters used on the Bin Laden raid and stealthy Black Hawk design concepts dating back to the 1970s.”
According to the outlet, even though the picture is obviously edited, has a relation to Fort Eustis, Virginia. Which doesn’t mean it was taken there.
It hosts the 128th Aviation Brigade, previously known as the U.S. Army Aviation Logistics School, Fort Eustis’ Felker Army Airfield it also hosts a unit commonly known as the Flight Concepts Division (FCD), that is now called the Aviation Technology Office (ATO).
So having a never-before-seen piece of aircraft isn’t specifically surprising.
The FCD, and currently the ATO is the united allegedly responsible for leading the development of the stealth Black Hawks used during the Bin Laden raid and many of the U.S. Army’s most advanced and secretive rotary-wing capabilities.
The tricky thing is that the photograph is undated, and there is no information about any program or programs it could potentially be associated with.
“The location where it was taken is also unknown, but is a desert locale that could indicate it was shot somewhere in the American southwest, which is home to a number of aviation test facilities, including top-secret air bases, such as Area 51 and the Tonopah Test Range Airport.”
Reports claimed that the Black Hawks that were used against Osama bin Laden were from Tonopah Test Range Airport.
The Bin Laden raid Black Hawks were said to be based on the special operations MH-60 airframe.
The photo presents a heavily modified Sikorsky EH-60 variant of the helicopter, and that’s about it.
Both the EH-60A and EH-60L Both of these helicopters carried versions of the AN/ALQ-151 Quick Fix system, which was capable of both intercepting hostile electronic emissions and providing direction-finding information to locate the source, as well as electronic warfare jamming. The EH-60L had a more capable version.
The helicopter has the four dipole antennas, two on each side of the tail boom, found on both the EH-60A and EH-60L.
Under the fuselage it has the long, retractable whip antenna found on the EH-60A, versus the more robust antenna system found on the EH-60L. This ventral antenna is associated with of the AN/ALQ-17A(V)2 Trafficjam communications jamming system, which is part of the larger Quick Fix II suite.
It also has two large missile approach warning sensors, one on each side of the nose under the main cockpit doors, which are part of the AN/ALQ-156A Missile Approach Warning System (MAWS). This is also found on both of the helicopters.
In a more puzzling direction, it also has stub wings, which provide one hardpoint on each side of the helicopter. These are more commonly associated with MH-60L/M Direct Action Penetrators assigned to the Army’s elite 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, as well as U.S. Navy MH-60S Seahawks.
What’s most striking is how it is covered, according to the Drive:
“The helicopter’s most notable features are, of course, the extreme modifications to the nose, the “doghouse” where the engines and main gearbox are situated, as well as the engine intakes and exhausts. It also has a heavily modified rotor hub. All of these features appear to be designed to reduce its radar signature, especially from the critical forward hemisphere aspect.”
Sikorsky had proposed using advanced radar-absorbing composite materials as part of its stealthy Black Hawk design studies in the late 1970s and Bell incorporated similar concepts into its OH-58X.
The OH-58X Kiowa is a kit developed by Bell back in the 1980s.
In the past, the Drive has been told that the Stealth Hawks used a MH-60 for their base platform, but an outer composite body was specifically built by Sikorsky to accommodate it, making it a far more elaborate and permanent application.
Regardless of what it is, it is notably that this is the first time there is any evidence to show that a stealthy Black Hawk helicopter even exists, rather than rumors that they were used at some point.