MH-60 “Seahawk/Knighthawk”

Frontal view of an MH-60S "Knighthawk" aboard the USS Wasp during Boston Fleet Week 2012 (Air Cache Photo/John M. Guilfoil)

Frontal view of an MH-60S “Knighthawk” aboard the USS Wasp during Boston Fleet Week 2012 (Air Cache Photo/John M. Guilfoil)

When the United States Navy decided to replace its aging tandem rotor CH-46 Sea Knight transport helicopter in 1997, it already had the wildly successful Sikorsky S-70 airframe to go by.

Already the framework for the Army’s “Blackhawk” and the Navy’s “Seahawk,” a new variant of the S-70 helicopter became an obvious choice for a new multi-mission navy helicopter that could perform troop insertion/extraction, search and rescue, cargo drop, and minesweeping.

Instead of building the new MH-60 off of the SH-60 “Seahawk” platform, the designers went off the Blackhawk’s wider cabin, large sliding doors on both sides of the helicopter, and a far-aft-mounted tail wheel. The engines, drivetrain, and rotors, however, are exactly the same as the SH-60.

The MH-60 went into production in 2002, with more than 154 MH-60S helicopters in service as of January 2011.

There are also 52 MH-60R variants in service. The R “Romeo” variant looks more like the SH-60, with the rear wheel mounted more forward like the original “Seahawk.” It is outfitted for sea strike and anti-submarine warfare.

The last CH-46 Navy Sea Knights retired in September 2004.

Crews unofficially and affectionately call the MH-60 “Knighthawk” as a tribute to the Sea Knight, but the official Navy designation “Seahawk” remains for this aircraft as well as the SH-60. A MH-60 pilot speaking on the USS Wasp during Independence Day 2012 festivities in Boston, casually referred to the helicopter as a “Knighthawk,” and pointed out the differences between the MH-60 and SH-60.

The MH-60 is the first US Navy helicopter to feature a “glass” cockpit, complete with four 8″X10″ active matrix liquid crystal displays and two programmable keysets.

The helicopter has a good safety record, but there have been incidents. On Sept. 24, 2007, an MH-60 crashed during training over Guam, killing one and injuring three. Another crashed into the side of a snow-covered West Virginia mountain in Feb. 2010. All 17 aboard at the time were rescued.

During Boston Fleet Week 2012 and Independence Day celebrations, an MH-60 and her crew landed on the USS Wasp, which was docked and open for public tours throughout the week. Visitors were allowed to get up close and personal with the “Knighthawk,” including sitting in the cockpit and chatting with the crew. That visit is where most of our photos come from.

Specifications

General

Crew: 3–4
Capacity: 20 armed troops/Slung load of 9,000 lb
Length: 64 ft 8 in
Rotor diameter: 53 ft 8 in
Height: 17 ft 2 in
Empty weight: 15,200 lb
Engine: Two General Electric T700-GE-401C turboshaft, 1,890 shp each

Performance

Never exceed: 207 mph
Recommended maximum speed: 168 mph
Range: 518 mi
Ceiling: 12,000 ft

Armament

Guns: M60D, M240 or GAU-17/A machine guns
Armed Helicopter Kit: Hellfire missiles, rockets, large caliber guns and cannons.
Other: FLIR pod and ALQ-144 infrared jammer

Essential reading

Photo Gallery

About John M. Guilfoil

John Guilfoil is the editor-in-chief of Blast: Boston's Online Magazine and the Blast Magazine Network. He can be reached at guilfoil.j@blastmagazine.com. Tweet @johnguilfoil.