More Info About the Helicopters at Area 51
If you ever ever yearned for more information about the helicopters that are frequently spotted at Area 51, an article that we found might just answer all of your questions. The article appeared on a website called Defense One, which is quite interesting in itself. Known for covering the latest news as it relates to the military, the website ran a story in March of 2017 talking about contract bidding for the upcoming replacement to the 1960's-era Huey helicopters.
The Air Force used the UH-1 Huey for years to guard our midwestern ICBM fields, but had been seeking an upgrade for more than 10 years. The Black Hawks had been considered as a replacement before - but competitors won the bid for the nuclear-security mission. Attitudes apparently changed, and the bidding process would reopen for a contract to supply 84 helicopters.
Sikorsky, an aircraft manufacturer from Connecticut, suggested that the military use the "Black Hawk variant that supports Area 51". We pretty much always knew that the helicopters seen at the top secret site were Blackhawks, but the article offers a few details about how they may be equipped.
The group of helicopters, officially named the HH-60U, that "supports missions at the Nevada Test and Training Range and the top-secret Air Force testing base near Groom Lake known as Area 51" is referrred to as the Air Force’s “Ghost Squadron.”
Sam Mehta, president of Sikorsky defense system and services, said of the Black Hawks “For us, obviously, that makes it a low-risk approach; the fact that they have three of these and the fact that we’ve already integrated these various components into the aircraft”.
So it looks like Area 51's Ghost Squadron contains a total of three Black Hawks, but how are they equipped? Without giving exact details, they said that "they would likely install a hoist, infrared camera, gun mounts, and a self-defense system to ward off hostile fire".
Defense One also reports that "the HH-60Us would share 85 percent of its parts with the HH-60Ws the Air Force is buying to replace its Pave Hawk combat-search-and-rescue helicopters." This sharing of parts would help to reduce the price of the helicopters and allow faster delivery - as early as 2018. Sikorsky had already built more than 1,000 of the Army UH-60M, a standard version of the Black Hawk, at a cost of about $14.5 million per unit.
Nothing in the article is especially surprising, but it is interesting to see an official confirmation of the Area 51 helicopters - and possibly new information about their equipment.