Projected federal air tanker fleet for the United States

Now that we have summarized the evolution of the federal large air tanker fleet over the course of 2014, it’s time to look at what is in store for 2015. There could be between 14 and 21 large air tankers on exclusive use contracts this year. Jennifer Jones, a Public Affairs Specialist with the U. S. Forest Service in Boise, told us that the list should include these aircraft:

  • 1 DC-10, 10 Tanker Air Carrier
  • 1 C-130Q, Coulson
  • 2 RJ-85s, Aero-Flite
  • 2 MD-87s, Erickson Aero Air
  • 1 BAe-146, Neptune
  • 6 P2Vs, Neptune
  • 1 C-130H, U.S. Forest  Service

In 2014 a DC-10 and three more BAe-146s were brought into service as “additional equipment” on a 1-year temporary basis under exclusive use contracts awarded in 2013. Due to a change in Department of the Interior procurement policies, this will not be done again in 2015.

The USFS expects to award another “next generation” contract for up to 7 more air tankers in 2015. We will be watching to see how long it takes the agency to advertise and award the contracts. Last time it took 555 days.

The USFS will also have one CL-415 water scooping air tanker on contract this year. And, eight military C-130s equipped with Modular Airborne Fire Fighting Systems (MAFFS) are expected to be available if needed.

Last year the Department of the Interior funded 33 exclusive use Single Engine Air Tankers (SEATs) as national shared resources. Randall Eardley, a spokesperson for the Bureau of Land Management, said their contracts are not firmed up yet for 2015, but they expect to have about the same number of SEATs as last year.

8 thoughts on “Projected federal air tanker fleet for the United States”

  1. How did the F.S. sneak in their C 130 for 2015? Don’t look now but fire season is very close. So same as last year (a good thing) but no progress (a bad thing) again, in obtaining additional tankers. 555 days (if that) puts the next possible addition of tankers into service? Have the private contractors put a halt to additional R&D, building up additional tankers? Is the Salt Queen Project (Fed C 130’s) more than a chip tooth to the private industry? It looks like the P2V’s are here to stay, (good thing).

    1. “Have the private contractors put a halt to additional R&D, building up additional tankers?”

      At least one of the operators on the above list has three airtankers available, plus two more in the process of conversion, anticipated to be fire-ready by summer. All that’s required is a contract, but that’s where the USFS has repeatedly fallen down.

      1. Curious which company you are referencing…they all seem to have more airtankers being constructed or ready for use than what is contracted.

  2. Are all of Neptunes BAE 146 aircraft on NG contract..or operating as legacy aircraft…They have 5 or so total I believe…Thanks in advance

    1. They have one BAe-146 on exclusive use contract so far in 2015. We’ll see what happens when and if the USFS awards another next-gen contract.

      As we wrote on February 3, last year a DC-10 and three more BAe-146s were brought into service as “additional equipment” on a 1-year temporary basis under an exclusive use contract awarded in 2013. Due to a change in Department of the Interior procurement policies, this will not be done again in 2015.

  3. Neptune only has one tanker BAe-146 on a Legacy Contract, I believe it’s been Tanker 40, All of Neptune’s tankers have been converted to version #3 delivery systems so I was told, which meets contract specifications. They have waiting and fully converted four other tankers ready now, # 41, #10, #01 and #02 along with two other BAe-146’s waiting to be converted, N192DD which is at Neptune’s base operation and one other that is waiting delivery to Misssoula, MT from Tronos in Summerside PE, Canada, N193DD. So it could be possible for Neptune to have 7 BAe-146’s available, five ready now and two later during the summer. Neptune has become sort of a hobby for me (retired) watching their aircraft from my home not far from their base operation in Missoula

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