Crowdfunding is an incredibly powerful tool. It can be used for charitable causes like offsetting the cost of medical bills for a struggling family or ridiculous causes like turning a millionaire into a billionaire. In the midst of defending itself against Russia's invasion, Ukraine crowdfunded $6 million to purchase a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter.
With the ability to hover, land, and take off right on the frontlines, helicopters are a vital lifeline for troops in modern warfare. Ukraine flies Soviet-era Mi-8/Mi-17 Hip and Mi-24 Hind helicopters and has received donations of both models from allied nations, including the United States. However, Kyiv's requests for western helicopters like the Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk have not been granted. Undeterred, Ukraine bought one.
In April 2023, ABC News reported that Ukraine got around U.S. restrictions on the Black Hawk by purchasing one from a private seller. The aircraft in question, a UH-60A model registered N60FW, was manufactured in 1980. The helicopter served in the U.S. Army until it was sold to Ace Aeronautics LLC in 2015. The company modified the Black Hawk for civilian use and registered it again in 2019. On February 28, 2023, the helicopter was reported as sold and now flies for the Defence Intelligence of the Ministry of Defence of Ukraine.
As the only Black Hawk in Ukrainian service, N60FW is used to support special forces. The DIU reports that its performance far exceeds the Mi-8 and Mi-24. "The helicopter impresses with its reliability, ease of operation and combat survivability," the Black Hawk's flight engineer said in a DIU news statement. The helicopter's pilot, who has experience on the Mi-8 and Mi-24, noted that he was able to fly the Black Hawk on the first day after just a few hours in the cockpit.
Although the UH-60A is an older version of the Black Hawk, it is still a capable battlefield asset. The official U.S. Army specifications list its carrying capacity as 11 seated troops. However, the DIU reports, "It takes 3-4 seconds for the helicopter to unload a group of 12 fighters and evacuate another group from the battlefield." The Black Hawk is also faster and more maneuverable than the Mi-8, with a top speed of 150 knots. Despite only being in Ukraine for a few months, the DIU reports that their Black Hawk has already taken part in hostilities, including on enemy territory.