Adelaide-based Aerotech announced today that they had bought two ex-military Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawks for use in firefighting in Australia.
According to Aerotech, the two aircraft will be the first of their type on the Australian civil register.
Aerotech Managing Director, Sam McCabe, said the Black Hawk helicopters were a game-changer for aerial firefighting in Australia and around the world.
“Black Hawk helicopters are fast, reliable, can be deployed quickly and drop more than 4000 litres of water per load to contain fires quickly,” he said.
“Our helicopters will remain in Australia all year round. This responds to a key finding of the recent Bushfires Royal Commission that state and federal governments should develop an Australian sovereign aerial fleet comprising Large Type 1 Helicopters such as the Black Hawk.
“It also overcomes the issue of relying on Northern Hemisphere-based Type 1 helicopters, which is becoming more problematic as the length of the bushfire season is getting longer in both hemispheres, therefore making it difficult for Australia to access these additional resources from overseas in shoulder periods.”
Aerotech, which is already responsible for the majority of South Australia’s aerial firefighting efforts, would seek operational contracts in Australia to provide additional capacity in support of existing firefighting aircraft as needed.
The UH-60 will carry 4000 litres of water or retardant in a belly tank, with a refill time of 35 seconds. The aircraft will cruise at 140 knots, has a maximum take-off weight of 10,000 kg and will carry 3600 kg external load on a hook.
Mangalore-based Kestrel Aviation recently added a UH-60 Fire Hawk to its fleet for firefighting operations, but the aircraft will remain on the US register.