The bulk order will enable United Rotorcraft as the only company authorized by Sikorsky, a Lockheed Martin company, to modify Black Hawk aircraft to the FIREHAWK configuration, to quickly deliver these new production aircraft for aerial firefighting in support of public agencies battling increasingly destructive wildland fires.
“The FIREHAWK helicopter is fast becoming one of the most powerful and effective aerial firefighting assets in California, attacking and extinguishing wildfires before they spread out of control,” said Larry Alexandre, United Rotorcraft’s President. “Acquiring five S-70 Black Hawk aircraft from Sikorsky with deliveries over the next 7 to 18 months confirms United Rotorcraft’s commitment to the FIREHAWK helicopter and its mission, and ensures their availability to support future demand from U.S. Western States or firefighting agencies around the world.”
Sikorsky will produce the five S-70 Black Hawk aircraft at Lockheed Martin’s PZL Mielec manufacturing line in Poland. Deliveries to United Rotorcraft’s 55,000+ square foot completions facility in Colorado are expected between early 2022 and mid-2023. The first aircraft received will be configured as a FIREHAWK helicopter for the State of Colorado, which announced its contract with United Rotorcraft on 16 August.
Modifying FIREHAWK into multi-mission aircraft
To modify a Black Hawk helicopter to the Firehawk configuration, United Rotorcraft installs and integrates a 1,000-gallon (3,785-liter) external water tank system to the aircraft’s belly. Fingertip controls allow pilots to drop the precise amount of water with high accuracy and refill the tank via a retractable snorkel in 60 seconds or less while hovering 10 feet over a water source.
United Rotorcraft works hand in hand with public agencies to further customize the aircraft, as needed, from communications and navigation systems, to cabin interiors, transforming the FIREHAWK into a true multi-mission aircraft, with the ability to transport up to 12 firefighters, provide medical care on board, or perform search and rescue operations.
Thirteen S-70 FIREHAWK helicopters currently fighting fires across California are operated by CALFIRE, Los Angeles County Fire Department, and San Diego Fire Rescue Department. Five more contracted aircraft are on the way.
Last year, Air Methods Corporation signed a $24-million, five-year HCare Smart support contract with Airbus Helicopters to cover its fleet of 31 EC145 aircraft.