The Black Hawk in GURPS

A Modern Helicopter and its Use(r)s

By Hans-Christian Vortisch

This article describes the widely used Sikorsky H-60 series of helicopters, with GURPS Vehicles Lite stats. It is especially useful for Special Ops or other military campaigns, but may also feature in many other modern action campaigns set between the 1980s and the 2030s -- including Hellboy or low-tech Cyberpunk.

Much of the information can also be used in other games, such as Cthulhu Now, Delta Green, d20 Modern, Merc: 2000, Twilight: 2000, etc.

Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk

In the early 1970s, the U.S. Army issued a requirement for a new multi-purpose helicopter to replace its fleet of Bell UH-1 "Huey" choppers (pp. SO123, VE141). The new aircraft was to be larger, faster, more powerful, and less vulnerable. One of the main goals was for it to provide higher survivability for crew and passengers.

The design developed by Sikorsky Aircraft Corp. of Stratford, Connecticut, entered service as the UH-60A Black Hawk in 1979. It soon spawned numerous variants for special uses and various branches of the U.S. military, as well as civilian users and export customers in more than 25 countries.

The UH-60L is the improved general-purpose variant, adopted in 1989. It differs from the original UH-60A mainly in upgraded engines and electronics. Some 540 have been acquired by the U.S. Army by 2003, and 60 more are on order. It cost around $8.6 million in 1997.

The Black Hawk is a twin-engined assault and transport helicopter with a four-bladed main rotor and a smaller tail rotor. Some vital components are ballistically tolerant and can take a couple hits before ceasing service completely. The whole craft has an IR-suppressant paint finish.

The cockpit seats the pilot on the right, the co-pilot on the left. Both have crash-resistant, armored seats, which provide small caliber and fragment protection from the rear, underside, and part of the sides (DR 25). If properly buckled in, the seats reduce collision and whiplash damage (pp. VE160, VL47) with an effective DR of 5. In addition, the pilots' seats are provided with cockpit airbag systems from 1999. There is a door on either side of the flight deck. The 410-cf main cabin is located behind the cockpit. Directly behind the pilots' seats, adjacent to the cabin's side windows, are the stations of the crew chief and the gunner. In addition, the cabin can accommodate 11 fully equipped troops on crash-resistant seats (an alternative seat arrangement seats the crew chief and 14 troops; this usually lacks armament). In the field, the passenger seats are often removed, allowing up to 22 troops to be carried. This is more dangerous in the event of a crash, but allows quicker dismounting. Two large doors are located on either side, sliding to the rear to open. There is an internal 600-lb. winch (ST 30) with 66-yard cable at the right door. This can be deployed to recover cargo or personnel while the helicopter is hovering. Alternatively, the passengers can fast-rope or rappel down (p. SO59).

The crew has dual flight controls and instrument panels fully compatible with AN/AVS-6 ANVIS image-intensifying night vision goggles (p. SO110), allowing flight at night. SINCGARS-compatible radios with encryption (pp. SO106, VL13) as well as satellite communication (SATCOM) equipment are installed.

Defensive equipment includes the AN/APR-39 radar warn­ing receiver, AN/ALQ-144 IR-missile jammer, and twin M130 flare/chaff dispensers. The dispensers can be loaded with M206 flares and RR-170 chaff bundles.

The engine compartment behind the cabin contains the twin 1,342-kW General Electric T700-GE-701C turboshafts. The engines are fitted with IR-suppressors. The self-sealing, explosion-proof fuel cells are designed to seal off a 7.62mm hole. A 67-kW Solar T62-T-40-1 auxiliary power unit (APU) is provided for the electrical systems and emergency use. The 4-bladed main rotor features ballistic blades of composite construction (which are able to tolerate a hit from a 23mm autocannon). The main rotor blades are foldable for stowage on cargo aircraft -- four Black Hawks can be carried in the McDonnell Douglas C-17A or six in the Lockheed C-5B (p. SO125). One hour is required to prepare it for loading and one hour for rebuilding on arrival.

The UH-60L can mount up to four machine guns -- two in the forward windows on either side and two in the doorways of the cabin. The forward mounts were originally fitted with 7.62×51mm Saco M60D machine guns (pp. HT119, SO121) with a 200-round belt of ready ammo each. These have been replaced in U.S. service with the 7.62×51mm FN M240D (pp. HT120, SO121, and VL57) from the late 1990s. Some mount 7.62×51mm GE M134 miniguns (selectable RoF 33/66, pp. HT119, SO121, and VL57) with 4,500-round belts each instead. The door mounts are not normally fitted on the UH-60L; if installed, various heavy machine guns can be mounted. The 12.7×99mm General Dynamics GAU-19/A minigun (pp. MF30, VL57) originally intended for it has been found to develop too much recoil, however.

The UH-60L can use the external stores support system (ESSS), which consists of two removable stubwings from which drop tanks and ordnance can be suspended. The ESSS features four hardpoints and can support up to 5,000 lbs. per side. Loads include 230-gallon or 450-gallons drop tanks (every three gallons increasing endurance by one minute), 7-round M260 or 19-round M261 70mm BEI Hydra rocket pods (pp. SO121, VL59), 4-round M490 HELLFIRE missile racks (pp. SO121, VL59), or the 160-round M56 Volcano FASCAM mine dispenser system -- the weapons are not usually carried (and note that the helicopter lacks the laser designator to guide the HELLFIREs; a designator on the ground or another helo is required). Any external load severely restricts the fields of fire of the machine guns. The stores are jettisoned if the helicopter comes under attack, to permit the gunners to return fire.

An external cargo carrying hook under the belly can support a slung load of up to 4.5 tons, e.g. an M1025 HMMWV armament carrier or a 105mm M119A1 towed howitzer, with its 5-man crew and 50 shells in the cabin.

The UH-60L burns 161 gallons of jet fuel per hour at cruising speed (normal endurance is about 2 hours 6 minutes). A full load of fuel and ammunition is $1,212. Visibility is good.

Sikorsky UH-60L Black Hawk

Subassemblies: Body +4; Top-and-Tail Rotor +2; 2×open mounts -1; 3×small wheels +1.

Powertrain: 2,535-kW Improved TTR drivetrain; 2×1,342-kW Improved HP gas turbines; 67-kW Improved HP engine; 1,470-kWs advanced battery.

Fuel: 360 gallons jet fuel (Fire 13).

Occupancy: 4 RCS, 11 NS

























































7.62×51mm Machine Gun/M240D [Body:L] (600 rounds).

7.62×51mm Machine Gun/M240D [Body:R] (600 rounds).


Body: 2×door mounts; 2×medium range radios w/ scrambler; long range radio w/ scrambler; long range radio w/ tight-beam option (p. VE47); autopilot; military GPS; 2×navigation instruments; IFF; inertial navigation system; radar detector; IR missile jammer (-2); compact fire suppression system; 600-lb. winch; duplicate controls; 2×airbags, 15×crash-resistant seats; 17-man environmental control; basic IR cloaking (-3); 2×6,000-lb. hardpoints [Body:L/R]; 9,000-lb. hardpoint [Body:U]. Open Mounts: Aircraft decoy discharger with 29 reloads (p. VXi18).


Size: 50'×8'×12' Payload: 5.24 tons Lwt.: 11 tons

Volume: 792 Maint.: 16 hours Price: $1,545,683.88

HT: 12. HPs: 900 Body, 360 Rotor, 75 each Wheel, 16 each Open Mount.

aSpeed: 184 aAccel: 4 aDecel: 14 aMR: 3.5 aSR: 2

Stall Speed 0. -2 aSpeed per loaded hardpoint (if any).

Design Notes

GURPS Vehicles Lite design. Body is 761.1 cf; rotor is 15.2 cf and 120 sf; open mounts are 1.5 cf each; wheels are 38.1 cf.

Body structure is medium, expensive, with fair streamlining. Armor is expensive composite on body and rotors, expensive metal on wheels. Each pilot station (40 cf) has 100 points expensive composite armor. 2×180-gallon light self-sealing tanks. The crash-resistant seats were bought as airbags. Each M130 dispenser can carry 30 flares or 60 chaff packets, equivalent to 30 flare/chaff loads in Vehicles.

Empty weight of the design was 11,960.85 lbs., which has been decreased to the actual empty weight of 11,516 lbs. Lwt. is the maximum combat weight. For ferry operations with extra fuel, it can go up to 12.25 tons. aSpeed has been decreased from 274 mph as designed to the actual maximum speed.


Numerous variants and modifications of the basic design exist. These include:

UH-60A Black Hawk

The original version of 1979 has 1,165-kW engines and a 4-ton slung capacity. The U.S. Army originally procured 976 of them, some of which have since been lost to combat or accidents, given away, or converted to other configurations.

UH-60M Black Hawk

Scheduled to enter service in 2006, this version is planned to increase the service life of the series to the year 2025 and beyond. The UH-60M fleet will consist of converted UH-60A and L models as well as newly built aircraft.

Modifications include rebuilt airframes, new rotor blades with better lift, a completely new digital cockpit with multifunction displays and internet access, and upgraded communication systems.


This is an electronic warfare version introduced in 1996, carrying the AN/ALQ-151 Advanced Quick Fix (AQF) battlefield ECM detection and jamming system, which intercepts, locates, and jams radio communications. The EH-60L also mounts extensive radio, datalink, and data storage equipment. An AN/ALQ-156 missile warning detector is also installed. It has a crew of five and is operated by military intelligence personnel.

HH-60G Pave Hawk

This version is used for combat search and rescue (CSAR) by the U.S. Air Force since 1992 (p. SO124). Some 102 are in service. It received extensive equipment upgrades, including terrain-following multi-mode radar, AN/AAQ-16 FLIR, external 600-lb. winch with 83-yard cable, two 185-gallon auxiliary fuel tanks in the rear of the cabin (doubling endurance to more than 4 hours), and an in-flight refueling system.

It is armed with 7.62×51mm GE GAU-2B/A miniguns (a variant of the M134) with 4,500 rounds each in the windows and can mount a 12.7×99mm Ramo-Browning GAU-18/A heavy machine gun (a variant of the M2 with RoF 16*, pp. HT119, SO121, and W130) with 1,300 rounds in the left cabin door.

Its crew consists of two pilots, flight engineer, gunner, and two pararescue jumpers . It will typically take on two survivors (although up to eight can be carried in a pinch).


The HH-60H (p. SO124) is a Navy version based on the SH-60B Sea Hawk. Operational from 1990, some 42 were made and are flown by HCS-4 ("Redwolves") and HCS-5 ("Blue Hawks") for search and rescue and special warfare combat support for the SEALs. Additional equipment includes AN/APS-124 search radar, AN/AAR-39A advanced radar warning receiver, AN/AVR-2 laser warning detector, AN/AAR-47 missile warning detector, improved AN/ALE-47 flare/chaff dispensers, AN/ARS-6 personnel locator system to locate personnel equipped with the AN/PRC-112 survival radio (p. SO106), and Kevlar floor mats in the cabin (DR 20 for the crew and passengers from below). Aside of its 4-man crew, it can carry eight passengers.

Its standard armament consists of two 7.62×51mm GE GAU-17/A miniguns with 4,500 rounds each in the windows (U.S. Navy version of the M134). A hardpoint either side can mount fuel tanks, rocket pods, or gun pods.

HH-60J Jayhawk

This is a search and rescue (SAR) variant developed for the U.S. Coast Guard. Based on the SH-60B Sea Hawk, it entered service in 1991. Called a Medium-Range Recovery (MRR) helicopter, it mounts a weather/air-to-sea search radar, FLIR sensor, 600-lb. winch with rescue basket, and three 120-gallon fuel tanks in external pods (increasing endurance to some 6 hours). Since late 2003, Jayhawks can be armed with the FN M240G machine gun. It has a crew of four and can carry six passengers. The USCG acquired 42 HH-60J Jayhawks, of which 35 are operational.


The U.S. Army's latest medical evacuation (MEDEVAC) helicopter was introduced in 2001 and is a specially equipped, unarmed ambulance helicopter. It has a crew of four (including two medics) and can carry six stretcher patients.

Its onboard equipment includes AN/AAQ-21 FLIR, a 600-lb. winch, and a complete medical kit (including oxygen and a suction system, +3 First Aid).


The MH-60K Special Operations Aviation (SOA) helicopter (p. SO124) was introduced in 1994 for direct support of U.S. Army special operations forces. Some 50 are in service with the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne). It replaced the MH-60A and features numerous upgrades over the standard UH-60L, including: AN/AAQ-16B FLIR, AN/APQ-174B terrain-following, ground-mapping and air-to-ground ranging radar, AN/AAR-44 advanced radar warning receiver, AN/AVR-3 laser warning detector, AN/AAR-47 missile warning detector, AN/ALQ-162 pulse jammer, AN/ALQ-162 radio jammer, improved AN/ALE-40 flare/chaff dispensers, AN/ARS-6 personnel locator system to locate personnel equipped with the AN/PRC-112 survival radio, Kevlar floor mats in the cabin, FRIES bars on either side of the cabin (each capable of supporting 1,500 lbs., p. SO98), two 172-gallon auxiliary fuel tanks in the rear of the cabin (doubling endurance to some 4 hours), and an in-flight refueling system with nose probe (allowing it to refuel from the Lockheed MH-130H Combat Talon II, p. SO125).

Its standard armament consists of two GE M134 miniguns in the windows and optional guns in the doors. The MH-60K does not mount the ESSS, having its own set of removable, upwards bent stubwings. These have only two instead of four hardpoints, but don't restrict the fields-of-fire of the machine guns. Typically, two 230-gallon tanks are carried, but 70mm AIM-92D Stinger air-to-air missiles (pp. SO118, VL59) can also be mounted.

It has a crew of four and can carry seven passengers.


The MH-60L (also known as the AH-60L) pre-dates the MH-60K, having been introduced in 1990, but has since been upgraded to a similar standard. Its main task today is as Direct Action Penetrator (DAP), i.e. as a fully armed gunship. It is very similar to the MH-60K except for lacking the in-flight refueling equipment and employing the standard ESSS. It features a HUD and the AN/AAQ-16D FLIR with integral laser rangefinder/designator, allowing it to fire laser-designated AGM-114C HELLFIRE antitank missiles or IR-homing AIM-92D Stinger air-to-air missiles without support. However, its typical armament consists of two M134 miniguns in the windows (fixed to fire forward and triggered by the pilot), a 19-round M261 70mm rocket pod on one ESSS stubwing and a 30×113mmB MDHC M230 chain gun (p. VL58) with 1,100-round belt on the other. It can carry up to four 150-gallon auxiliary fuel tanks in the cabin, each increasing endurance by about 50 minutes.

MH-60S Knight Hawk

This U.S. Navy version introduced in 2001 is essentially a navalized UH-60L with features of the SH-60B Sea Hawk. It has the larger cabin, cargo doors, ESSS, and many external features of the Black Hawk, combined with numerous internal Sea Hawk features such as the engines, rotor brake, folding tail pylon, automatic flight control system, rescue winch, and a more durable gearbox.

It replaces the HH-60H, CH-46D Sea Knight, and several older types for the general-purpose, search and rescue, medevac, special warfare support, VIP transport, and assorted other roles. Some 237 are to be acquired by 2010.

SH-60B Sea Hawk

The SH-60B Sea Hawk was the U.S. Navy's first version, introduced in 1984 and mainly intended for antisubmarine warfare and surface search and surveillance. It has numerous differences, including a smaller cabin with only one door on the right side, navalized engines, 590-gallon fuel capacity, rotor brake, folding tail pylon, automatic flight control system, rescue winch, and a more durable gearbox. It has an AN/APS-124 surface radar system underneath the cockpit, AN/ASQ-81 MAD sensor, and a 25-round sonobuoy launcher in the left side, in place of the left cabin door. The cargo hook is rated at 3 tons. Armament consists of an optional Saco M60D machine gun in the cabin door on the right, and two hardpoints for MK46 torpedoes, AGM-119 Penguin antishipping missiles or 120-gallon drop tanks.

SH-60F Ocean Hawk

Similar to the SH-60B, intended for use on aircraft carriers and in service from 1991. Roles include transport, search and rescue, as well as antisubmarine warfare. It features AN/ASQ-13F dipping sonar, four MFDs, three hardpoints (one left, two front-to-back right) for torpedoes or antishipping missiles. Aside of the 4-man crew, it can carry only three passengers.

This variant can be seen in Tears of the Sun.

VH-60N White Hawk

Flown since 1988 by the USMC squadron HMX-1 based in Quantico, Virginia, for exclusive use by the U.S. President and his staff (the aircraft carrying the president having the call sign "Marine One"). The VH-60N (based on the SH-60F Seahawk) is luxuriously fitted and equipped with a weather radar system, extensive avionics and communications suite (with its own radio operator) hardened against EMP, and passive defensive systems. Nine are in service.

How To Use It

Already in WWII, helicopters saw limited use for artillery spotting, reconnaissance, and transport, but it were search and rescue operations that were the early helicopters' most important contribution to modern warfare (and soon, civilian life). By the early 1960s, the full potential of the helicopter as a war machine had been realized. The U.S. Army concept of air cavalry that could deliver infantry, supplies, and fire support almost everywhere (provided air superiority had been achieved) saw widespread acceptance during the Viet Nam War and almost all later conflicts. The fine-tuning of tactical concepts (such as the Fire Force tactics in the Rhodesian War) and the ever improving technology changed this but little. At the same time, helicopters became commonplace over cities, highways, forests, and the sea, for police observation, SWAT insertion, medical evacuation, firefighting, sea rescue, antisubmarine warfare, or simply quick and comfortable transport.

The H-60 series of helicopters can be used for all of these missions; it is a highly developed machine that addresses many of the shortcomings of earlier designs. While increased survivability was its main raison d'ętre, it is not invulnerable, as the fiasco in Somalia underlined (p. SO101) -- but then, nobody claimed it was.

Black Black Hawk

Some Americans believe in the existence of Black Helicopters, ferrying shades-wearing Men in Black across the country to alternatively engage in cattle mutilations, abductions, or actions aimed at depriving citizens of their Right To Bear Arms. In any Black Ops, Conspiracy X, Illuminati, or Delta Green campaign worth its salt, these rumors would of course be true.

They could certainly also engage in more benevolent activities, such as the protection of citizens against alien invasions (as the Delta Green organization or the Blue Boys in Dreamcatcher).

Back in the real world, the existence of "black" helicopters is fairly easy to explain: under night conditions, all cats are gray, i.e., even plain olive drab military helicopters on routine training flights will appear "black." In addition, pilots of federal agencies are allowed to switch off their position lights if required for an operation, and will thus be nearly invisible in darkness. Finally, DEA "Pot Hawks" are actually painted black . . . whether they are engaged in the rumored covert ops is a matter of belief.

In keeping with the rumors, Black Black Hawks should also be fitted with a sound-baffling system to allow for silent flight.

Military Users

Any campaign involving the U.S. military in modern times should get good use out of this helicopter. The UH-60A was first used in Grenada (1983) -- the UH-60L and many of the special versions have been employed in both U.S. wars in Iraq (1991 and 2003), in Panama (1989), Somalia (1992), Haiti (1994), Bosnia (1996), and Afghanistan (2001).

The UH-60L is the main workhorse of the 101st Air Assault Division (which flies 114 and plus three EH-60L), and heavily used by the 82nd Airborne Division and 10th Mountain Division (which have 38 and three EH-60L each), and other front-line Army units, including the 3rd Armored Cavalry Division (which has 21). Some National Guard units also fly it.

Special ops units such as the U.S. Army Rangers (pp. SO24-25) and Special Forces (pp. SO26-28) would be supported by the MH-60K SOA and MH-60L DAP -- flown by the "Night Stalkers," the highly specialized pilots of the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne) (pp. SO28-29) --, U.S. Air Force Pararescue Jumpers by the HH-60G Pave Hawk, and U.S. Navy SEALs (pp. SO30-31) by the HH-60H or MH-60S.

The UH-60L and its variations may also show up in service of foreign forces, including the Royal Australian Army (supporting Australian special ops, p. SO34), Austrian army, Brazilian army, Brunei air force, Red Chinese army (designated Hei Ying, mainly for high-altitude operations in the Himalaya), Colombian air force, Israeli air force (designated Yanshuf 2, supporting Israeli special ops, pp. SO38-39), Mexican army, Saudi Arabian army (seating 15 passengers; some have a 20×102mm MAT M621 door gun -- use stats of the GE M61A1 Vulcan with Wt 99, RoF 5/12*, Shots 240, pp. SO122, VL57), Taiwanese air force, Thai army, and Turkish army (supporting Turkish special ops, p. SO46).

Naval versions are in use with the Royal Australian Navy, Greek navy, Spanish navy (designated H.23), Taiwanese navy, and Thai navy.

License-made versions include the Mitsubishi UH-60JA and SH-60J used by the Japanese army and navy, and the Korean Air UH-60P of the South Korean army.

Civilian Users

Commercial success of the H-60-series has been limited so far, mainly due to its cost and complexity; many of its features are unncessary for the requirements of civilian operators. Most non-military users employ it for VIP or law enforcement missions.

A number of federal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. use the UH-60A (some on permanent loan from the Army), making it useful for certain Cops campaigns. These include the Bureau of Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) , the Drug Enforcement Agency (dubbed the "Pot Hawk" in its service), and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). The U.S. Coast Guard flies the HH-60J Jayhawk. A few fire departments, including that of Los Angeles County, fly the Firehawk, a variant with a removable 1,000-gallon water tank and water pump under the belly (Firehawks are also in service with the Florida and Oregon National Guards).

The Hong Kong SDU team (p. SWAT17) is supported by two such helicopters; Moroccan and Turkish police agencies likewise use it.

Many countries employ VIP versions for government executive transport, e.g. Argentina, Egypt, Hong Kong, Jordan, Malaysia, Philippines, South Korea, Thailand, and Turkey.

Selected References

Article publication date: July 30, 2004

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