North American air tankers to be under contract in NSW during Australia’s summer

T-132 Thor
T-132, or ‘Thor’, an L-382 Hercules contracted to the NSW Government to assist in fighting bushfires dispenses water during a demonstration over the Rickaby’s drop zone near RAAF Base Richmond. Australia Department of Defence photo by CPL David Said .

A year ago during Australia’s 2014-2015 summer two large air tankers from North America were under contract in Victoria, Australia, Coulson’s Tanker 131, a C-130Q, and Conair’s Tanker 162, an RJ-85. The two aircraft dropped more than a million liters of fire retardant across the state, completing 81 drops across Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia. Victoria will have two large air tankers under contract again this summer, beginning in November unless they are needed earlier.

Australia’s Minister of Defence, ABC News, and ASD News reported that this year the New South Wales Rural Fire Service is “trialling” two air tankers, a DC-10 and Coulson’s Tanker 132 (an L-382G which is a civilian stretched version of a C-130).

T-132 is already in Australia and earlier this week performed a practice or demonstration water drop near Richmond air base in northwest Sydney where it will be based until early December. The aircraft is under contract with the RFS for two fire seasons.

Coulson says the L-382 has their latest Coulson SMART 4,400-gallon retardant tank system. The DC-10 carries 11,600 gallons (44,000 liters).

ABC reports that the DC-10 Very Large Air Tanker (VLAT) will be under contract with the RFS beginning in October. The agency has not announced which company will supply the DC-10, however there is only one that operates DC-10 air tankers.

RAAF Base Richmond will be used to provide airfield support services to the air tankers in NWS from September 1 until January 20, 2016.

According to the Department of Defence:

Defence is providing a number of services including aircraft parking and security, access to fuel and refueling facilities, equipment storage, use of resources including water, aircrew office space, and meals and accommodation for up to 20 people, as required. Facilitating the aircraft at RAAF Base Richmond is intended to maximize aircraft utility and provide access to all areas of NSW in the event of a bushfire emergency.

Portions of Australia have the potential to face an above normal bushfire season.

Australia Bushfire Outlook


Below is an an outlook for the 2015-2016 bushfire season in Australia, from the Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC and the AFAC:

“Large areas of southern Australia, especially along the east and west coasts extending inland, face above normal fire potential for the 2015-2016 fire season, despite many fires in some parts of the country over the last 12 months. The above normal forecast is mostly due to a strengthening El Nino over the Pacific Ocean, currently tracking as one of the strongest on record, but is made more complex this year by the influence of warmer sea temperatures in the Indian Ocean.

There have also been significantly below average rainfalls over the last decade across almost all of eastern Australia, the west coast and Tasmania. Such underlying dry conditions mean that any surface moisture from recent rains will quickly decline once temperatures begin to warm. 2014 was Australia’s third warmest year since records began and, when combined with such long term rainfall deficiencies, an early start to the bushfire season is likely in many areas.

The Southern Australia Seasonal Bushfire Outlook is used by fire authorities to make strategic decisions on resource planning and prescribed fire management for the upcoming fire season.”

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Cameron.