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Sikorsky, United Rotorcraft Partner on Wildfire-Fighting Helicopter

The agreement will help government agencies worldwide fight wildfires.

A Firehawk aircraft operated by CAL FIRE demonstrates the powerful concentration of water released from its 1,000 gallon tank for effective wildfire fighting.
A Firehawk aircraft operated by CAL FIRE demonstrates the powerful concentration of water released from its 1,000 gallon tank for effective wildfire fighting.
Lockheed Martin

Sikorsky, a division of Lockheed Martin, and United Rotorcraft, an Air Methods company, yesterday signed an agreement to collaborate to meet growing global interest in the S-70 Firehawk helicopter.

The agreement will enable the team to identify demand, and more quickly build and configure new production Firehawk helicopters for government agencies worldwide to fight wildfires. 

The agreement will allow United Rotorcraft to contract for bulk orders of S-70 Black Hawk aircraft, much as it did in August 2021 with an initial five-aircraft order from Sikorsky. Four of the five aircraft will arrive at United Rotorcraft’s Englewood, Colorado completions facility this year from the S-70 production line at PZL Mielec, a Lockheed Martin company in Poland. The first aircraft of the bulk order will be modified to the Firehawk configuration for delivery in 2023 to the State of Colorado.

An S-70 Black Hawk aircraft becomes a Firehawk helicopter when United Rotorcraft adds a 1,000-gallon (3,785-liter) water tank system, a raised landing gear (to accommodate the tank), and associated integrated avionics, a process that typically takes six months.

United Rotorcraft has been the Firehawk completion teammate of Sikorsky since the late 1990s working closely with Sikorsky and first customer County of Los Angeles Fire Department, which today operates two S-70i and three S-70A Firehawk aircraft. Other operators include CAL FIRE and the City of San Diego Fire-Rescue.

United Rotorcraft recently introduced a digital control mode that gives either pilot greater control of water released to suit the type of fire, and in 2023 will offer both the currently available aluminum tank and a new lightweight, composite tank option.

“The success of the Firehawk helicopter in California to attack and suppress wildfires in their initial stage has spurred fire agencies globally to evaluate this unique asset, both as a firefighting tool and a multi-mission aircraft for year-round rescue and medical assistance,” said Larry Alexandre, United Rotorcraft president. “Federal, state and local legislatures facing wildfire threats are more likely to authorize an aircraft purchase if the aircraft is readily available. With Sikorsky’s assistance as aircraft manufacturer, United Rotorcraft and Air Methods are bringing the world’s most efficient medium lift firefighting helicopter to the market at a speed not previously seen.”

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