The South Dakota Army National Guard received its first L-model UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter at the Army Aviation Support Facility in Rapid City, which will provide an enhanced capability for air crews combating wild-land fires and other support missions.
The L-model Black Hawk increases the operational load capacity of the aircraft through improved engines, transmission and flight controls.
"The benefit of this upgrade will be noticed in our water-bucket operations during wild-land fires," said Maj. Jon Murphy, state aviation officer for the SDARNG. "The structural improvements and cargo hook increase our structural limit from 8,000 to 9,000 lbs."
Murphy said the biggest increase will be seen during the hot, summer days fighting fires in the Black Hills. Having an additional 1,000 horse power will improve power and safety.
"This not only allows crews to carry more water to help with fire suppression, but most importantly, allows for an improved safety margin when operating these aircraft at their maximum power limitations," he said.
The UH-60L will be assigned to the Rapid City-based Company C, 1st Battalion, 189th Aviation Regiment, which recently returned from deployment in Iraq and Kuwait in May. The unit now has five A models, in addition to the L model.
Murphy said they are hopefully of being able to acquire two more L-models by next year.