Former Army S-70s for fire service

The Australian Army Aviation Corps received 39 Sikorsky S-70A-9 Black Hawk helicopters and the survivors will be retired from service in 2019. Nigel Pittaway

THE AUSTRALIAN government announced on June 22, 2018, that two Sikorsky S-70A-9 Black Hawk helicopters currently operated by the Army will be transferred to the New South Wales Rural Fire Service (NSW RFS).

The two helicopters are currently being operated by the Australian Army Aviation Corps’ 6th Aviation Regiment on counter-terrorism activities, but will be made available in late 2019, when the Black Hawk fleet is retired in favour of the NH Industries MRH90 Taipan helicopter.

The transfer of ownership of the two Black Hawks from the Australian Defence Force (ADF) will be subject to (US) country of origin export endorsement and other approvals, but the aircraft are expected to enter service with the RFS in 2020.

The NSW State government has allocated AUD 6.5 million from its current budget to cover the subsequent conversion of the two helicopters to Firehawk configuration after delivery.

The pair will be operated by the NSW RFS’ aerial squadron and used to fly emergency services personnel to bushfires, floods and other natural disasters.

Federal Minister for Law Enforcement and Cyber Security Angus Taylor – who also has Commonwealth responsibility for emergency management – said the Australian government was pleased to offer the helicopters to the NSW RFS.

He said: “Fast aerial emergency support can be the difference between life and death, so these former military Black Hawks will be vital not only to metro areas, but also to people in rural and regional NSW.”

The NSW government has previously contracted US-based Firehawks during Australia’s bushfire season. NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet said: “Once they are fully kitted out for their new use, firefighters and other emergency service personnel will be able to respond to fires, floods and other disasters as quickly as possible.”

He added: “The new aerial support follows the NSW government announcing funding in last year’s budget for Very Large Air Tanker (McDonnell Douglas DC-10) and Large Air Tanker (Lockheed L100 Hercules) water bombing aircraft.” Nigel Pittaway