By Chief Warrant Officer 4 Steven M. Melvin, Aviation Test Program Officer, Aviation Test Directorate, U.S. Army Operational Test Command
FORT MCCOY, Wisconsin — Aviators, crewmembers, and support personnel of the 106th Aviation Regiment, Illinois Army National Guard, are here operationally testing the UH–60V Blackhawk helicopter while preparing for an upcoming deployment.
As the newest helicopter introduced into the Army’s inventory, the UH60-V began fielding to the 106th during 2021 following the unit’s selection as the Army’s first unit equipped.
“Victor” model testing completes a 24-month process from conception to reality for the Illinois Guard unit.
Chief Warrant Officer 3 Brennon Links, a Maintenance Test Pilot (MTP) from Mulberry Grove, Illinois, said it was challenging, “Being a part of the first unit fielding for the Army. The 60V is a better version of what I like and am used to.”
The UH–60V pairs a recapitalization of the combat proven UH–60L with the latest technologies available to provide enhanced information and capabilities to support the warfighter, according to Mr. James Adams, the Aviation Test Officer tasked with developing and running the UH–60V test.
Adams, with the Aviation Test Directorate of the Fort Hood, Texas-based U.S. Army Operational Test Command, spent two months establishing and conducting the test, under operationally realistic conditions.
He said the data collected during testing will support an independent evaluation by the U.S. Army Test and Evaluation Command’s Army Evaluation Center at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland.
“Their training provides an opportunity to improve unit readiness; and the user-level feedback the operators provide is critical for the Army’s decision whether or not to initiate full-rate production,” said Adams.
The helicopter test is the first time several members of the unit have seen or worked with each other, flying 192 hours during four weeks.
“Transitioning the Illinois fleet from analog to digital — learning the new components and systems — I enjoyed the challenge of learning something new that will provide a new capability to Soldiers and the unit,” said Staff Sgt. John Bahena, an Avionics Technician from Waukegan, Illinois.
Links and Bahena both agreed fielding and operationally testing the UH–60V has brought their unit’s personnel together.
Links said, “Being an MTP, if I ever had a problem, I could reach out to the large UH–60 community for answers. However, being the only Victor model unit, we’ve had to figure out a lot of issues on our own.”
“The 60V provides Lima-model safety, reliability, and trustworthiness, only better,” he added.
Bahena said the cohesion from different facilities, focusing on success, has been rewarding.
The 106th Aviation Regiment has facilities in Kankakee and Decatur, Illinois.
About the U.S. Army Operational Test Command:
As the Army’s only independent operational tester, OTC tests Army, joint, and multi-service warfighting systems in realistic operational environments, using typical Soldiers to determine whether the systems are effective, suitable, and survivable. OTC is required by public law to test major systems before they are fielded to its ultimate customer — the American Soldier.
The Aviation Test Directorate at West Fort Hood, Texas, plans and conducts operational tests and reports on manned and unmanned aviation-related equipment to include attack, reconnaissance, cargo and lift helicopters, fixed wing aircraft, tactical trainers, ground support equipment, and aviation countermeasure systems.