First (And Only) Ukrainian Black Hawk Seen In Action

Ukrainian Black Hawk
The only Black Hawk helicopter in Ukrainian service as it approaches a landing zone. (Screenshot from Ukrainian Directorate of Intelligence video)

New details also emerged about the arrival on this helicopter, which appears to be the result of a crowdfunding campaign.

After the Ukrainian Directorate of Intelligence unveiled a US-made UH-60 Black Hawk in Ukrainian colors in February 2023, now a video published by the agency on YouTube shows the helicopter in action with special forces during a training event, practicing assault landings, extractions and fast-rope insertion operations. According to the video description, the helicopter is already being used also in combat operations.

The GUR (one of the acronyms of the agency) says that both pilots and troops agree that the Black Hawk is significantly ahead of the Mi-8 Hip and Mi-24 Hind in almost all characteristics, and that they are impressed by its reliability, ease of use and combat survival capability. They mention that the helicopter is way more maneuverable and also faster than the Mi-8, with the capability to fly long missions over three hours or 600 km.

The agency stressed the fact that pilots coming from the Mi-8 and Mi-24 were able to fly the UH-60 after few hours in their first day with the new helicopter. Claims like this one are not new, but we should remember that the Black Hawk is not only a new machine, but it also has an entirely different design and employment philosophy behind it that is completely different from the old Soviet helicopters. Maybe it could have been more than just few hours, but nevertheless they were able to put the UH-60 in action in a relatively short time since February.

“Over the past year, the level of our pilots has grown tremendously. Currently, Ukraine can easily accommodate about a hundred Black Hawk multirole helicopters, about 50 Apache attack helicopters and about 40-60 Chinook cargo helicopters”, said the first Ukrainian Black Hawk pilot, who carries the call sign “Maestro”. “We could accept such a number with minimal time to retrain our pilots.”

GRU special forces disembark the Black Hawk during a training exercise. (Screenshot from Ukrainian Directorate of Intelligence video)

So far this is the only UH-60 helicopter in Ukraine. Its appearance in Ukraine came as a surprise as it was not announced in the military aid packages sent to the war-torn country. However, ABC News’ reporter Ian Pannell was able to confirm that the helicopter was bought at the end of a crowdfunding campaign that raised six million dollars.

When the Black Hawk was shown for the first time in Ukraine, it was reported that its livery was already seen in the past on helicopters of the US firm Ace Aeronautics, which specializes in converting older Black Hawk helicopters divested by the U.S. Army for the civilian market. It appears that Ace Aeronautics is indeed the company who sold the helicopter to Ukraine.

In fact, the Federal Aviation Administration registry reports one of the company’s helicopter, registration N60FW, as sold to Ukraine. We now know that the Black Hawk in question is a 1980 UH-60A model, which formerly served in the U.S. Army with the serial number 80-23439. In 2015 the Black Hawk was acquired by Ace Aeronautics, before appearing on a sale listing last year where it was specified the airframe had 5,875 flight hours to its active.

The helicopter was upgraded with a glass cockpit based around the Garmin G5000H touchscreen Integrated Flight Deck, called by the company “Ace Deck VL-60”. During the 2022 Heli Expo in Dallas, the same helicopter was also shown equipped with dummy AGM-114 Hellfire missiles, M-134D miniguns and a Wescam EO/IR sensor. None of these appear to be installed on the UH-60 now that it arrived in Ukraine.

About Stefano D'Urso
Stefano D'Urso is a freelance journalist and contributor to TheAviationist based in Lecce, Italy. A graduate in Industral Engineering he's also studying to achieve a Master Degree in Aerospace Engineering. Electronic Warfare, Loitering Munitions and OSINT techniques applied to the world of military operations and current conflicts are among his areas of expertise.