NASHVILLE -- The Army wants to upgrade the back of its HH-60 Black Hawk medevac helicopters to allow its medical crews to tailor the systems and equipment to specific missions.

Army aviation leaders have received reports from soldiers that the choppers have struggled with the additional weight of life-saving systems in hot environments at high altitudes. The Medical Mission Equipment Packages installed into the back of HH-60 helicopters include patient handling, oxygen and environmental control systems.

HH-60 Dustoff crews have often had to remove the package to improve the performance of the helicopters in high-altitude and extreme environments like Afghanistan. Army Col. Thomas Todd, the service's program manager for Utility Helicopters, said the Army has heard the feedback and wants to give Army medical crews more options.

He explained that the Army is working with Sikorsky Aircraft to develop a "modular medical interior system" for the back of the Army's HH-60 medevac helicopters and hopes to have a package for Army medical crews to test next year.

"The Army is working on a common, modular medical interior that will better address the needs of our commanders in the field," said Sofia Bledsoe, an Army aviation spokeswoman. "Medical crews must have a modular platform that can be reconfigured to provide space for additional personnel and equipment."

The service is continuing to collect feedback on how the service should design system to include the number of litters and types of life-saving systems, Todd said.

"We want a long-term solution," he said. "We don't just want a Band-Aid."

The Army has 198 HH-60 and 409 UH-60 medevac helicopters in its fleet.

Todd said the service also hopes the Army's Improved Turbine Engine Program will also significant help the performance of the service's Dustoff helicopters. Dustoff is the call sign for the Army's Air Ambulance units.

Army officials expect the ITEP program to produce a 3,000 horsepower engine that would increase power by 50 percent and fuel efficiency by 25 percent. Those engines would be installed into AH-64 Apache and UH-60 and HH-60 Black Hawk helicopters by 2023.

-- Michael Hoffman can be reached at mike.hoffman@military.com

Related Video