Australian StarFlight and Kaan Air Australia have signed $50 million (AUD $63 million) with Lockheed Martin to purchase 10 refurbished Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk US military helicopters with options for an additional 10 aircraft.
The refurbishment program to be undertaken in Brisbane, the agreement will see the purchase of 10 ex-US military Black Hawks, to be imported into Australia early next year. The Black Hawks will be brought up to 'as new' condition and repurposed specifically for aerial firebombing operations during future bushfire seasons around Australia and New Zealand and for year-round emergency services and disaster relief work, Lockheed Martin said in a statement Friday.
The aircraft will be refurbished and maintained in Brisbane by Sikorsky. This initiative sees Kaan Air Australia and StarFlight Australia partner to usher in a new era in Australian emergency services and disaster relief aviation.
John Skeen, chief executive officer of Kaan Air Australia and StarFlight Australia said, “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.”
"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."
General Manager of Sikorsky Australia, Andrew Rushbrook, said that as the original manufacturer of the Black Hawk helicopter, there is no company better positioned to refurbish and maintain this incredible aircraft and no better place to do so than at Sikorsky Australia headquarters in Brisbane.
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, 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.