July 28 (UPI) — Sikorsky, Kaan Air Australia and StarFlight Australia have signed an agreement worth up to $50 million for 10 UH-60 Black Hawks to be converted to firefighting platforms.
The agreement would procure 10 former U.S. Army Black Hawks to be refurbished in Brisbane, Australia, and converted into aerial firebombers to combat brushfires and civil emergency situations.
The agreement includes options for the future purchase of 10 more Black Hawks for similar service. The helicopters would be operated by aerial service provider StarFlight for emergency response.
Kaan Air and StarFlight chief executive officer John Skeene said that the deal would be a big step for Australian aviation.
“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,” Skeene said in a press release.
The planned refurbishment will include engine upgrades, gear boxes and the installation of terrain avoidance systems along with firefighting modifications.
The UH-50 Black Hawk is the primary medium-lift transport helicopter of the U.S. Army and several other nations where it has been exported. It has been produced in many variants to perform a wide variety of missions.
Over 4,000 Black Hawks have been produced since the platforms introduction in 1974. The U.S. Navy uses a ship-launched version of the platform known as the CH-60 Sea Hawk.