On March 29, 2023, nine service members died after two US Army Black Hawk helicopters collided during a routine training exercise in Kentucky.
The tragedy was just one of many Black Hawk crashes on US soil that resulted in fatalities.
Black Hawks are four-bladed, twin-engine, medium-lift helicopters that have become an essential part of the US Army’s airborne combat system.
DailyMail.com breaks down key questions about the Black Hawks – including their safety.
A UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter flies overhead during an international special operations forces capabilities exercise rehearsal outside the Special Operations Forces Industry Conference in Tampa, in Florida, May 22, 2018
What is a Black Hawk Helicopter?
The UH/HH-60 Black Hawk is the Army’s utility tactical transport helicopter.
They are used to provide air assault, general support, and aeromedical evacuation to US troops.
They can also be used for command and control and special operations support to combat, stability and support operations.
Thanks to their great versatility, the Black Hawks helped to strengthen the troop and cargo transport capacity of the United States Army.
One of the main advantages is that Black Hawks can get commanders into battle faster – and are able to hold a fully equipped infantry squad of 11.
Helicopters can also operate in most weather conditions.
Significantly, the Black Hawks airframe is designed to gradually collapse on impact to protect crew and passengers.
Who makes Black Hawk helicopters?
Black Hawks are manufactured by Sikorsky Aircraft – a Stratford, Connecticut aircraft manufacturer established by Igor Sikorsky in 1923.
Sikorsky Aircraft remains one of the leading helicopter manufacturers, producing such well-known models as the UH-60 Black Hawk.
They started making Black Hawks in 1974, and still do.
Why are Black Hawks dangerous?
A total of seven servicemen and women have already died in 2023 in Black Hawk accidents.
The first was on February 15, 2023, when a Black Hawk crashed, killing two members of the Tennessee National Guard in Huntsville, Alabama.
Officials have speculated that recent accidents and fatalities, particularly when Black Hawks are operated on US soil with no enemy involved, may have something to do with the actual manufacture and structure of the helicopters.
In February 2022, two Utah National Guard UH-60 Black Hawks crashed during a winter survivability and mobility training session.
In this case, officials say that when the first Black Hawk helicopter landed, it kicked up snow and dislodged its main blade.
This dislodged blade then struck the second helicopter nearby, causing it to crash as well.
An MH-60 Blackhawk helicopter flown by the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment
Meanwhile, on Dec. 5, 2019, a UH-60L took off from St. Cloud’s Army Aviation Support Facility and then disappeared for nearly two hours. The crashed helicopter was found in a field about 16 miles southwest of St. Cloud.
The Minnesota National Guard accident revealed that improper installation of an engine’s hydromechanical unit was responsible for the incident.
This is an issue that raised the prospect of administrative action for both the mechanic who installed the unit and the inspector who reviewed the work.
On February 5, 2021, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand called on the Pentagon to “quickly investigate” the crashes to see if there was an issue with the Black Haws tech cell that determined a broader pattern of malfunction.
She said: “These recent helicopter crashes are tragic and reveal a worrying trend that needs to be investigated.
“When our brave soldiers put on their uniforms and go to work, they must have confidence that their command is keeping their equipment safe and available. I urge the DoD to initiate a thorough investigation of these UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter crashes to determine if there is a pattern.
What happened to the two Black Hawk helicopters?
All nine servicemen died after two US Army Black Hawk helicopters collided during a routine training exercise in Kentucky.
On Wednesday, aircrew from the elite 101st Airborne Division were flying two HH-60 Black Hawk assault helicopters when they crashed around 10 p.m. ET in Trigg County, Kentucky.
The crew members were part of the United States Army’s only air assault division nicknamed the “Screaming Eagles”. They are based at Fort Campbell, located on the state border with Tennessee, 60 miles northwest of Nashville.
Wreckage from the assault helicopters – estimated at more than $10 million each – fell from the sky and was scattered on the ground as fire crews arrived to douse searing flames overnight.
What is the 101st Airborne Division?
The 101st Airborne Division is the United States Army’s sole air assault division.
It is nicknamed the ‘Screaming Eagles’ and has been active since August 16, 1942.
The 101st is recognized for its air assault capability, its ability to execute any combat or contingency mission anywhere in the world for the United States military.