A new agreement between Kaan Air Australia, Sikorsky and StarFlight will bring 10 Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters into Australia, all refurbished for firefighting purposes. The deal, worth AUS $63 million, will be the first of its kind in Australia. There will be an option to purchase 10 further Black Hawk helicopters says Sikorsky.
All 10 helicopters are ex-military aircraft and will be refurbished and refitted in Brisbane. The helicopters will be brought to Australia early next year, says Sikorsky. They will be used specifically for aerial firebombing operations during future bushfire seasons around Australia and New Zealand and for year-round emergency services and disaster relief work.
“This is a game-changer for aviation in Australia. The purchase of 10 plus 10 optioned Black Hawks represents a significant milestone for the firebombing and disaster relief helicopter industry in Australia, particularly in terms of efficient rotary wing attack to reduce loss of life and property during bushfire events,” said John Skeen, chief executive officer of Kaan Air Australia and StarFlight Australia. “The helicopters are being purchased by an Australian company, will be registered in Australia and most importantly, will be fully maintained and supported in Australia by the helicopter OEM Sikorsky and its supply chain commitment, helping to boost local jobs in the area and guaranteeing ongoing supply chain support of our Black Hawk fleet.”
Sikorsky says that the helicopters will be maintained by them in Brisbane, and that the new helicopters will bring 50 pilot and technical jobs in the long term to the area.
The initial 10 Black Hawk helicopters have been hand-picked by Sikorsky for their suitability in aerial firebombing and external heavy load lifting ability, and will be made available by StarFlight to assist emergency services and fire agencies in bushfires and natural disasters across the country.
StarFlight Australia will be the operator of the aircraft. The Black Hawks will undergo three months of extensive refurbishment, says Sikorsky, including new high-performance engines, upgraded gear boxes, installation of Helicopter Terrain Awareness and Warning System (HTAWS) and a general overhaul which will be carried out by Sikorsky at its Pinkenba facility in Brisbane.