Here is a list of pending, and still unawarded, federal contract solicitations that we are aware of for firefighting aircraft or equipment:
Purchase of one to seven NEW large air tankers. The USFS intends to spend some funds appropriated by Congress that were specifically earmarked for the purchase of at least one brand new air tanker. The specs call for an internal removable retardant tank that holds at least 3,000 gallons. A meeting was held in D.C. with interested potential vendors on August 26, 2015 to talk about the purchase. So far, only a draft synopsis has been issued. The omnibus federal appropriations bill that was passed in December by Congress included a provision to allocate $65 million for the U. S. Forest Service air tanker fleet. This effort may be to spend those funds. And it may never see the light of day in passed legislation, but there has been a proposal to allocate left over firefighting funds each year toward the purchase of new air tankers. That could be why they are talking, here, one to seven new large air tankers which could be spread over multiple years.
Amphibious Water Scooping Aircraft (the USFS refuses to call them “air tankers”). The USFS intends to award contracts for up to two water scoopers. Issued August 20, 2015. Response date: September 11, 2015.
Next Generation V. 2.0 Large Air Tankers. This will be the second batch of awards for next generation air tankers. They intend to contract for up to seven. Issued November 26, 2015. Response date was modified at least once; latest was: April 9, 2015.
Retardant Delivery System. This was issued by the Air Force to obtain retardant tanks for the seven HC-130H former Coast Guard aircraft the Air Force is putting through heavy maintenance and retrofitting as air tankers before they are transferred to the U.S. Forest Service. The solicitation was modified 14 times. Presolicitation was issued July 29, 2014. The response date was changed at least once; latest was May 15, 2015.
Air Tanker Base Facilities Assessment. This is only a Request for Information at this stage, but we assume that an actual solicitation will be issued at a later date. The purpose of the assessment is to determine possible locations for basing, at least in the winter, the seven HC-130H aircraft the USFS will be receiving from the Coast Guard after the heavy maintenance and air tanker retrofitting is complete. Issued September 2, 2015. Response date: September 25, 2015.
These are the solicitations we were able to find at FedBizOpps.gov for firefighting aircraft and related items. If you’re aware of others that are still pending, let us know.
UPDATE, September 28, 2015: In responding to Kenneth’s comment about options for new air tankers, we mentioned Lockheed Martin’s new LM-100J (the commercial version of the C-130J) which COINCIDENTALLY sells for about $65 million, the amount appropriated in the legislation. We wrote about the aircraft in December, 2014. In searching for a link to the LM-100J today, we found the following image in a promotional video on Lockheed’s website, which shows the aircraft spraying fire retardant from a pressurized Modular Airborne FireFighting System (MAFFS).
Keep in mind that Mark Rey who oversaw the Forest Service as the former Under Secretary of Agriculture for Natural Resources and the Environment, has been a lobbyist for Lockheed Martin since he left the federal government in 2009 through that proverbial revolving door. The company hired him to lobby the Forest Service to buy the company’s “firefighting equipment”. Since 2009 Mr. Rey has been paid at least $432,000 by Lockheed Martin, according to Open Secrets.