United Rotorcraft, a division of Air Methods Corporation, has awarded Sikorsky, a Lockheed Martin company, a contract for five S-70™ Black Hawk® helicopters. The bulk order will enable United Rotorcraft, as the only company authorized by Sikorsky 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.
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 Aug. 16.
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.