Colorado to purchase 2 multi-mission aircraft

The Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control (DFPC) is soliciting bids to purchase two multi-mission fixed wing aircraft which will primarily be used to gather intelligence about ongoing wildfires. From the specifications we have seen, they might also serve as a platform for an Air Tactical Group Supervisor.

The solicitation indicates that the government will own the aircraft but they will be operated and maintained by a contractor, fitting the Government-Owned/Contractor-Operated (GO/CO) model. The contractor will be “required to operate and provide maintenance services, facilities, supplies and personnel for the aircraft”.

The DFPC wants the aircraft to be outfitted with an extensive array of capabilities, including:

  • Thermal imagery;
  • color imagery;
  • geo-posiiton of captured imagery;
  • orthorectified imagery;
  • real-time location tracking of the aircraft;
  • near real-time moving imagery to ground stations;
  • recording and mapping the location of aerially applied water or fire retardant;
  • recording and mapping a fire’s progression over time;
  • sensor operator shall be capable of communicating with wildfire management personnel using a textual chat tool;
  • provide incident reports directly to the state’s information management system to include fire location perimeter, fire intensity map, and fire behavior description.

The aircraft will be a single or dual engine turboprop capable of carrying one pilot and three passengers, and shall cruise at more than 250 KTAS.

The requirements of these aircraft remind us of a Request for Information the U.S. Forest Service issued last August in which they intended to contract for 7 and later up to 15 aircraft outfitted with high-tech sensors to serve as platforms for aerial supervision on wildfires.

The time frames of Colorado’s solicitation are very tight:

At least one of these Aircraft shall be delivered to DFPC ready to perform missions by July 15, 2014. The second Aircraft shall be delivered to DFPC ready to perform missions by October 15, 2014.

It would take the USFS many months or years to do this. And it may or may not be possible for Colorado to get one of these aircraft delivered by July 15 fully outfitted with all of the equipment they have specified, and with pilots, technicians, and a maintenance contract all squared away. The solicitation was issued on June 10, with a response due date of June 24, giving the successful bidder 21 days to deliver the first aircraft. (And we thought the USFS giving the next-generation air tanker bidders 90 days to deliver their aircraft was tight.)

Today, June 13, is the due date for Colorado’s solicitation for two or three firefighting helicopters which will be required to begin work on July 1, 2014. And next year they expect to contract for up to four large air tankers.

Thanks and a hat tip go out to Bean.

5 thoughts on “Colorado to purchase 2 multi-mission aircraft”

  1. Colorado DFPC overestimates the efficiency of its own bureaucracy. It also seems like they’re spec-ing a Swiss Army knife, when a fork & spoon would’ve been good/soon enough first season, and maybe that extra money used NOW for another heli or a couple SEATs (“boots in the air” :-).

    1. On the other hand, most of us are used to the way it has always been done, and when a new kid on the block wants to do it another way, it seems wrong. But, I’d give them the benefit of the doubt. We might be pleasantly surprised.

  2. The specs look remarkably similar to the capabilities of an MC-12 or maybe the U-28A. There may be an “off the shelf solution” for the requirement.

    Given the delays locating the High Park and Waldo Canyon fires; the lack of a lead plane delayed initial air attack on the Lower North Fork fire [the spec is also for an ASM capable pilot]; and the ever-present comm problems between different departments and agencies, maybe DFPC is on to something that will enable existing capability to “fight smarter”, improve response times, and efficiency.

    Given my military background, I would think better C4ISR would enable existing units to do a better job. After optimizing your existing capability, then request/budget for more suppression capability [ground and air].

    The Colorado governor did not support the DFPC request for type I or II tanker contracts because he did not believe there was enough data to justify the requirement. Once the DFPC can say that they are doing the best they can with what they have, they will be able to justify a request for more suppression assets.

    1. Johnny, you’re probably right but since the legislature and governor did not support contracting for large air tankers, it looks to me like this is the way for DFPC to make a case for more tankers for Colorado.

      We may have to watch one burn before they pay for more tankers.

      If it was a Naval aviation problem, I’d say that the old axiom applies … “blind men can’t fight”. Surveillance support is essential. You have to find the threat in order to engage it effectively. Colorado has been having trouble finding the fires in order to organize prompt initial attack so maybe the multi-mission aircraft is a good idea.

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