Of all the rotorcraft that have been donated from Western allies to the Ukrainian Armed Forces as it continues to bare the brunt of invading Russian forces, it seems that the first US-built helicopter to be seen involved in the conflict – a Sikorsky UH-60A Black Hawk – has unexpectedly appeared in the service of the secretive Main Directorate of Intelligence of the Ministry of Defence of Ukraine.
This revelation came on February 21, when Ukraine’s Main Directorate of Intelligence published two images of a single Black Hawk-series utility helicopter sat inside a hangar at an undisclosed location in the war-torn country. The first image appears to show two armed crew members posing next to the aircraft, while the second shows the Black Hawk alongside a Ukrainian Army Aviation (UkrAA)-operated Mil Mi-24 Hind gunship, with two armed crew members and special operations troops posing in front of the two rotorcraft.
While no official transfer of Black Hawk helicopters to the Ukrainian Armed Forces has been publicly sanctioned by the US government, it appears that this aircraft is likely to be former US Army-operated UH-60A (serial 80-23455), which was withdrawn from operational use in the mid-2010s and sold to US-based avionic and airframe solutions provider, Ace Aeronautics, before it was re-registered as N60FW and nicknamed ‘Blue’ in November 2015.
This identification comes courtesy of the baseline colour scheme worn by the Black Hawk – aside from the Ukrainian flag and roundel – which matches the livery worn by N60FW perfectly. It features a distinctively glossy, black base livery with dark blue and silver cheatlines that encompass the lower section of the aircraft’s fuselage. No identifiable Ukrainian or US serial number or registration can be seen in the images provided by the Main Directorate of Intelligence.
Headquartered in Guntersville, Alabama, Ace Aeronautics provides avionics and airframe upgrades for a range of platforms, including the vast Black Hawk family of multi-mission utility helicopters. The firm also provides a range of experimental flight test; maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) and training services. Alongside N60FW, the company operates two other UH-60As – registration N60HD (former US Army serial 85-24411) and N60RN (former US Army serial 81-23559). It remains unclear whether these aircraft are destined to also be transferred to Ukraine.
On the evening of February 21, a video – which appears to show the Black Hawk flying at low-altitude over an undisclosed location in Ukraine was shared on social media:
Ukrainian UH-60 helicopter flight in Ukraine, February. pic.twitter.com/39abE4M3sJ— Clash Report (@clashreport) February 21, 2023
While Ukraine has received a number of rotorcraft from its Western allies since the Russian invasion began on February 24, 2022 – ranging from Czech Air Force-operated Mi-24/35 Hinds to ex-Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm Westland Sea Kings – the majority of manned aircraft donated to the Ukrainian Armed Forces to date have been surplus aircraft of Russian origin, such as Mi-8/17 Hips. This means that the Black Hawk operational with the Main Directorate of Intelligence is the first confirmed US-built manned aircraft to be dispatched to Ukraine to support its armed forces in their conflict against Russia. While the US has given Ukraine aircraft during the conflict, these were largely sourced from the stocks of ex-Afghan Air Force Hips that were acquired as a resurgent Taliban took back control of Afghanistan in August 2021.