BALTIMORE- Officials unveiled a new medical evacuation version of the Black Hawk helicopter at the National Guard Association of the United States conference here on Sept. 21.T

The HH-60M Black Hawk is capable of carrying up to six litter patients or walking wounded to the nearest medical treatment facility, wherever that may be.

“This is all about saving lives and preventing suffering,” said Lt. Gen. Clyde Vaughn, the director of the Army National Guard.

An aviation unit headquartered in Vermont with a detachment in Massachusetts will get the first M-series off the assembly line. A total of 42 new Black Hawks will be delivered to four states in fiscal year 2009, and 60 by 2010.

“We are the first medevac unit fielded,” said Col. Garrett Jensen, chief of the aviation and safety branch for the Army National Guard. “It’s a milestone, and it’s really a testament of … the Army’s dedication to equipping the Guard.”

Officials said the M-series modifications fulfill a “valuable” medical need in an airframe that is already a field-proven helicopter in troop capacity, equipment and design. “It is the [work] horse of what we do in the United States and around the world,” Vaughn said.

mary2.gifChief Warrant Officer 4 Stephen Sanderson, the state division safety officer for the Vermont Army National Guard, said the biggest change in this model is the rotor system. “You’ll get another 545 pounds of lift from that and be able to operate in a high, hot environment substantially better.”

The M-model also has a bigger engine, an all-glass cockpit for better visibility, an improved gear box for the main transmission and an externally-mounted electric hoist, “so you don’t lose the cabin space,” Sanderson said.

“It’s a fully digital aircraft and has the ability to communicate with other aviation and ground assets,” he added. “It’s a fully coupled auto-pilot. The thing flies itself.”

The helicopter also has a medical suite in the back with an onboard oxygen generating system and climate control. The oxygen system, a vital component of first medical response, runs off the engine’s air output.

“As long as the engines on the aircraft are running or there is oxygen in the bottles (gas containment cylinders), then you’ve got oxygen,” said Arthur E. Torwirt, vice president of products division of Air Methods Corp., the providers of the medical equipment in the M-series.

Vaughn said these improvements allow the M-series to fly “no kidding” life-saving missions quickly for servicemembers.

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