VX-31 Website

VX-31 Aircraft Operated for Research, Test, Development, and Evaluation and Range Support

Aircraft Gallery


SH-60 aircrew practice transporting personnel using the onboard hoist in the China Lake airspace.
(U.S. Navy Photo by Michael McGinnis)




VX-31 SH-60F provides video coverage and downlink of space shuttle landing at Edwards Air Force Base.
(L.A. Daily News by Mr. Gene Belvins)


MH-60S Knighthawk

The Sikorsky-manufactured MH-60S Knighthawk helicopter is a dual-piloted, utility type aircraft. There is an aft cargo area capable of holding equipment, cargo or seating for up to eight passengers. It has a length of 64 feet 10 inches with the blades in the most fore and aft positions.

External cargo loads of up to 6000 lbs. can be carried to remote locations around the complex. Weight may be less at altitudes above 5000 ft. A basic model MH-60S aircraft weighs 15,000 lbs. with only crew and no other equipment installed. Its main fuel load is 360 gallons and an internal auxiliary fuel tank of 200 gallons for typical endurance of 3.5 hours with an additional internal auxiliary fuel tank capacity of 200 gallons which extends flight duration by approximately 1.5-2.0 hours. The maximum total gross weight of MH-60S cannot exceed 23,500 lbs. The lifting capability of the helicopter is ultimately based on weather conditions that exist at the time.

The VX-31 MH-60S helicopter is employed in a number of missions. Its primary role is to first serve as a day and night search and rescue platform for military aircraft operating in the airspace complex surrounding the Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake. As a Search and Rescue (SAR) asset, the crew consists of two pilots, one inland rescue aircrewman, and a rescue medical technician. The aircraft can conduct both search and rescue throughout the Sierra Nevada Mountain ranges. The crew is capable of landing in rough terrain, one-wheel deployments, rappel deployments, and onboard hoist recoveries. Crews are on alert status at China Lake seven days a week.

On a daily basis, the MH-60S is used for day and night aircrew search and rescue training with occasional logistics and test support. The aircraft supports a variety of testing at China Lake, including parachute test and PHALANX test and evaluation, as well as helicopter support for fixed-wing testing.

As a utility helicopter, it is also used to transport personnel and equipment to hard-to-reach places around the test complex and to assist in locating and retrieving valuable equipment for flight test projects.

The MH-60S is also capable of flying as a radar target for projects that require slow flight profiles. The helicopter can fly from 180kts to a static hover at altitudes up to 13,000-ft density altitude. In all cases, limitations for weather conditions and safety are considered.

In specially modified configurations, the MH-60S can carry onboard cameras or other test equipment. The helicopter has both 115 VAC and 28VDC power sources in the cabin for avionics and other equipment External mounting of test equipment can also be approved. There are two standard attachment points which are used for weapons deployment or mounting of sensors or special test equipment.


64 ft. 10 in.
Main Rotor Diameter/Width
53 ft. 8 in.
Maximum Speed
180 KTS
Maximum Fuel/Endurance
560 Gal./3600 lbs./3.5 hrs.
Maximum Density Altitude
13,000 ft.
Maximum Weight
23,500 lbs.
Hoist Capable
200 ft./600 lbs.
Rappel Capable
250 ft. rope
Patient Capacity (load dependent)
2 litters/3 ambulatory

VX-31 SH-60F provides support for space shuttle landing at Edwards Air Force Base

VX-31 SH-60F provides video coverage and downlink of space shuttle landing at Edwards Air Force Base. (U.S. Navy Photo by Michael McGinnis)

Last Update 18-Aug-2016 11:00