The MH-60S Knighthawk was developed to replace Navy's fleet of CH-46D Sea Knights, SH-3 Sea Kings, and HH-60H Seahawk helicopters. A hybrid prototype, consisting of an Army UH-60L airframe and Navy SH-60F engines and avionics, was produced and tested between 1997 and 1998. In 1999-2000 the Navy conducted additional testing with the prototype (designated YCH-60S) to evaluate its ability to take on an additional role as an airborne mine-countermeasures platform, which would allow the Navy to retire the MH-53E Sea Dragon as well.
The first production Knighthawk flew in January of 2000 and was delivered to the Navy (HC-2) in 2001. Originally designated the CH-60S, the Knighthawk was redesignated the MH-60S in February of 2001. The first production AMCM capable MH-60S was flown in July 2003. Full rate production of the MH-60S was initiated in 2002 with a total production run of 271 planned (of which 66 will be dedicated to the AMCM mission.) The final MH-60S aircraft is expected to be delivered in 2011, by which time it, along with the MH-60R, which is replacing the SH-60B/F series in the ASW role, will be the only two types of helicopters in service with the Navy.
The MH-60S is currently in production and in active service with the fleet.
Airframe and general capabilities
The MH-60S Knighthawk is a twin-engined medium lift utility helicopter. It is equipped with a single 4-bladed rotor and a single 4-bladed tail rotor. The basic crew compliment for the MH-60S is four; pilot, co-pilot, crew chief and gunner.
The MH-60S was designed to serve as a replacement for the CH-46D Sea Knight and the SH-3 Sea King in the VERTREP (vertical replenishment) and personnel transport role, the HH-60H in the combat search and rescue (CSAR) role, the MH-53E Sea Dragon in the mine counter measures role. As such, it is literally a hybrid of two distinct airframes.
Externally, the MH-60S is based on the Army UH-60L Blackhawk cargo/transport helicopter. The MH-60S retains the twin cargo compartment doors, one located on each side of the cargo compartment, of the Army helicopter, as well as the enlarged internal cargo area and internal fuel layout. In addition, the Knighthawk retains the extended reverse tricycle landing gear arrangement of the land-based helicopter, the hover IR suppression system for the engines, the high capacity external cargo hook (9,000 pounds), twin gunner?s stations (one mounted on each side of the aircraft, forward of the cargo door), and is ESSS (external stores support system) capable, which will enable the Knighthawk to mount additional fuel tanks or weapon systems. Incorporated into the UH-60L airframe are the SH-60F style doors for the pilot and co-pilot, the navalized variants of the General Electric T700-GE-401C turboshaft engines, the folding tailplane, the automatic rotor folding mechanism and rotor brake, the 600 pound capacity rescue hoist (mounted on the right-hand side of the aircraft) the hover in-flight refueling system (HIFR) and fuel dumping capability, as well as the heavy duty transmission, drive train and avionics.
In the cargo/ personnel transport role, the MH-60S can accommodate up to 13 passengers (excluding crew) 6 medical litters or two cargo pallets totaling a maximum of 4,000 pounds internally. The Knighthawk can carry up to 9,000 pounds externally via its cargo hook, with a total payload capacity (internal and external) of 10,000 pounds.
For those MH-60S aircraft performing the AMCM mission, the airframe has been strengthened and modifications have been made to allow for the installation of the operating winch for the AN/AQS-20A mine detection sonar.
The MH-60S is the first naval helicopter to be built from the frame up incorporating the MH-60 common "glass cockpit" design which was introduced with the UH-60L. This system replaces most of the analog aircraft instruments with four active matrix liquid crystal color displays and dual programmable operator keysets. In addition, the cockpit is fully NVG compatible, which will enable the aircrew to effectively operate the helicopter in low visibility conditions.
The MH-60S Knighthawk is equipped with two 1,800 shp General Electric T700-GE-401C turboshaft engines. Internal fuel is stored in two crashworthy fuel tanks and totals 360 gallons. In addition, the Knighthawk can accommodate two additional internal auxiliary fuel tanks, each rated at 200 gallons.
The empty weight of the MH-60S is 13,648 pounds, while the maximum take off weight is 23,500 pounds. The external cargo carrying capacity (cargo hook) is 9,000 pounds and the internal cargo capacity is 4,000 pounds. Total lift capacity is 10,000 pounds
The maximum level speed of the MH-60S is 145 knots (167 miles per hour) while the cruising speed is 139 knots (160 miles per hour.)
The maximum range of the MH-60S on internal fuel and at maximum take-off weight is 245 nautical miles (278 statute miles.)
The MH-60S is equipped with VHF-FM, UHF-FM, and VHF-AM/FM radios, as well as encrypted IFF recognition system. Other mission electronics include the AN/AAS-44 IR ranging and tracking laser system and the MTS-A multi-spectrum targeting system.
For navigation the Knighthawk relies on the Litton LN-100G dual embedded global positioning system and inertial navigation system.
For self-defense the Knighthawk is equipped with the AN/APR-39(V)1 radar-warning receiver, the AN/ALQ-144(V)6 IR countermeasures set, and the AN/AAR-47(V)2 missile launch detector set.
AMCM capable Knighthawks are equipped with the AN/AQS-20A towed mine identification sonar, the Airborne Mine Neutralization System (AMNS), the 30mm AN/AWS-1 Rapid Airborne Mine Clearance System (RAMICS) and the AN/AES-1 airborne laser mine detection system (ALMDS.)
The MH-60S can be armed with two 7.62mm machine guns (one per pintle mount at the gunner?s stations) and two .50 caliber machine guns (mounted at weapon stations in the crew compartment.) With the ESSS mounted, the MH-60S can accommodate up to 16 AGM-114 Hellfire missiles or four 2.75" rocket pods. The 30mm AN/AWS-1 system can also be mounted on the ESSS station. The MH-60S is also AGM 119 Penguin capable.