Black Hawks elevate South Australia’s bushfire defence

Wednesday 08 December, 2021

Agile Black Hawk helicopters will revolutionise bushfire fighting in South Australia this summer and significantly boost capability for the Country Fire Service’s aerial fleet in a move that also increases protection for the community and firefighters.

Two Sikorsky UH-60A Black Hawk helicopters – operated by South Australian company Aerotech – are now on standby for deployment across the state, creating local jobs.

Emergency Services Minister Vincent said the Marshall Liberal Government’s $10.2 million for aerial firefighting in the 2021/22 State Budget has strengthened the evolution of South Australia’s bushfire defence.

“These Black Hawks are revolutionary firefighting assets because of their quickfire capability,” Minister Tarzia said.

“There’s not a gun in sight but make no mistake, these Black Hawks are one of our strongest weapons in the fight against bushfires.

“Black Hawks can deploy in just five minutes, surpassing the ability of other Type 1 firefighting helicopters, meaning CFS volunteers on the ground have greater aerial support for longer periods.

“Each helicopter has a top speed of 360km/h and can hold 4,000 litres of water or retardant. They can refill from a tank or dam in just 35 seconds and the accuracy of water drops is pinpoint.”

CFS Chief Officer Mark Jones described the Black Hawks as the “next generation” of aerial firebombers.

“The CFS has utilised helicopter firebombing aircraft since 2006,” Mr Jones said.

“Our aircraft are key factors in helping to slow the speed of fires so our ground troops can safely get in and extinguish them.

“The speed of response and flexibility of the Black Hawks will provide greater capability for our other 25 aircraft across South Australia.”

Aerotech Managing Director Sam McCabe said the Black Hawks are a game-changer because of their speed and reliability, and the fact they can be deployed within minutes of a callout.

“We’re excited that we’ve been able to offer what we believe is a significant performance improvement for South Australia’s aerial firefighting capability through our two Black Hawk helicopters,” Mr McCabe said.

“By basing our fleet locally, we are available all year round and we’re creating jobs for South Australian pilots, engineers, ground crew and support staff.”

The Black Hawks will be based in the Adelaide Hills and contracted to the CFS on a multi-year contract for an 84-day period.

A Large Air Tanker (LAT) will also be based in Australia on year-round standby for aerial assaults on bushfires across the country following a $4 million boost by the Morrison Government in September.
Increased annual Australian Government funding for the National Aerial Firefighting Centre (NAFC) – now totalling more than $30m – has ensured additional resources are available to support and safeguard firefighters on the ground during catastrophic blazes.

Black Hawk capabilities:

  • Maximum total weight: 9,071kg.
  • Maximum flight speed: 360km/h.
  • Operational speed with tank: 250km/h.
  • Flying time: 2.5 hours without refuelling.
  • Cargo hook load: 3,600kg.
  • Main rotor diameter: 16.3m
  • Length: 19.5m.
  • Horsepower: Two General Electric GE-701D/CC engines exerting 1,488kW each.
  • Tank: Helitak FT4500 system with 4,000L capacity.
  • Re-fill time with snorkel: 35 seconds.