Sikorsky Firehawk. Photo courtesy of Sikorsky
United Rotorcraft has received a purchase order from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) for the acquisition of a new Sikorsky S-70 Black Hawk. United will reconfigure the aircraft into a Firehawk firefighting variant.
The purchase order follows a decision by the California Assembly and Senate budget subcommittees approving the purchase of up to 12 of the aircraft to replace the state’s aging UH-1H fleet over the next five years. The Sikorsky manufactured S-70 is based on the UH-60 Black Hawk military helicopter. It is equipped to endure the extreme physical stresses demanded of aerial firefighting and utility missions.
The Firehawk features next-generation technology that provides specific benefits to firefighting operators. Its features include a digital glass cockpit with flight management system for improved situation awareness, a rugged airframe and wide chord rotor blades for increased payload and maneuverability.
The aircraft also is capable of precision hover using an enhanced global positioning system and an inertial navigation system. An integrated vehicle health management system monitors the aircraft's operational health for preventive maintenance to detect anomalies for early repair.
After the aircraft is assembled, it is modified by United Rotorcraft with a 1,000-gallon (3,875 liter) water tank equipped with a unique snorkel system for 60-second tank refill. It will also be fitted with extended landing gear, single-pilot cockpit layout and a medically equipped interior. All of these features arm the aircraft for its role as a multi-mission firefighting tool.
The aircraft is currently among the firefighting fleets in other parts of California, such as the Los Angeles County Fire Department.