• The RFS does not make clear whether Defence will actually sell the helicopters. (Credit: Nigel Pittaway)
    The RFS does not make clear whether Defence will actually sell the helicopters. (Credit: Nigel Pittaway)

Defence released a Request for Solutions (RFS) on March 25, advising the possible sale of up to 27 ex-Army Sikorsky S-70A-9 Black Hawk helicopters and associated spares and equipment, as the type is retired from service in coming months.

Aircraft are expected to come up for disposal between July 2021 and December 2022, when the final Black Hawk is expected to be retired. The helicopter has been replaced as Army’s primary battlefield helicopter by the NHI (Airbus) MRH 90 Taipan multi-role helicopter (MRH). The Commonwealth’s preference is to sell the helicopters and associated inventory to either one purchaser, or as few purchasers as practicable.

However, the document makes it clear that Defence does not guarantee that any assets will be offered for sale within a certain timeframe, or indeed if at all. Furthermore, it says that the number of assets may vary due to Commonwealth requirements and/or its commitments to other recipients, such as museums.

Similar to the US Army’s UH-60A Black Hawk variant, Australia acquired 39 S-70A-9 helicopters from 1988 to be assembled at Bankstown by Hawker De Havilland. The type was commissioned into service with 9 Sqn RAAF in September 1988, but the battlefield helicopter capability was transferred to Army control in 1989. To date, five Black Hawks have been lost in accidents.

Twenty-nine helicopters are listed in the RFS (albeit with a maximum of 27 to eventually be sold), comprising 19 ‘Configuration 1’ aircraft and 10 ‘Configuration 2’ helicopters which are fitted for, but not with, an Electronic Warfare Self Protection (EWSP) suite delivered under Project Echidna (Air 5416).

The RFS advises that four of the 29 helicopters listed (three ‘Configuration 1’ and one ‘Configuration 2’) are “more likely to be removed from the sale”. All helicopters will be made available with their associated CAMM2 maintenance data.

The spares inventory, as of March 5, included 889,623 non-rotable, and 12,390 rotable items with total book values of $47 million and $71 million respectively.

Previously Defence had advised ADM that 34 aircraft (i.e. all surviving airframes) would be disposed of, including helicopters earmarked for the Australian War Memorial in Canberra, the Museum of Army Flying at Oakey, the RAAF Museum at Point Cook and the RAAF Aviation Heritage Centre at Amberley.

To further confuse matters, the Commonwealth Government announced in June 2018 that two Black Hawks will be donated to the NSW Rural Fire Service.

Closing time for the RFS is 1630 AEST on May 21, 2021.

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