Sikorsky sees regional opportunities for its Armed Black Hawk initiative, which turns its iconic UH-60/S-70 platform into a hard-hitting helicopter gunship.

At a briefing at the American Chamber of Commerce, chief engineer for the S-70 programme Joe Palumbo said the system can come with newly delivered rotorcraft, or be retrofitted. This is particularly useful for operators who lack the resources to operate dedicated gunships such as the Boeing AH-64 Apache or Bell Helicopter AH-1Z Viper.

Such an asset could be useful in Southeast Asia, where some countries have challenges with insurgencies, but defence budgets are limited.

The Armed Black Hawk comprises two winglets with four weapons stations, as well as a FLIR electrical optical/infrared sensor under the chin.

The hard points allow the helicopter to carry up to 16 Lockheed Martin AGM-114 Hellfire missiles, rocket pods, and forward firing rotary cannons. In one configuration, pilots can control four forward firing guns, rockets and laser guided missiles.

Palumbo says that the large size of the Black Hawk makes it a very stable firing platform.

The company has sold 23 examples of the Armed Black Hawk, but Palumbo declined to comment on the customer’s identity. Media reports suggest that this customer is Saudi Arabia.

Palumbo also discussed the company’s S-70 Sea Hawk offering, and a parapublic version designed for firefighting.

The firefighting version, dubbed FireHawk, includes a 1,000gal (4,550 litres) belly tank that can be removed when not required. Palumbo says this arrangement is superior to carrying a bucket, as the belly tank is much more accurate, and can be used to drop the water in a line, to create fire break.

Palumbo adds that the Sikorsky has also received interest regionally in the VIP version of the Black Hawk. He notes that since the helicopter is designed for the military, with ballistics protection and other features, it is well suited to the VIP mission.

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