Australian Prime Minister says four more large air tankers will be ordered

Two of them will be DC-10s

Tanker 912 Horse Butte Fire Idaho
File photo of Tanker 912, a DC-10, dropping retardant on the Horse Butte Fire in Idaho, July, 2019. Photo by Mike Krupski.

For several days military ships and helicopters have been used to evacuate residents and holiday makers in Australia who were forced to the coastal beaches by wildfires in New South Wales and Victoria. On Saturday New South Wales Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons was blindsided upon finding out from the media that Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced that 3,000 ADF reservists would be brought in to help with bushfire recovery efforts. In addition, $20 million would be provided for leasing four additional firefighting aircraft the Prime Minister said.

John Gould, President of 10 Tanker, said their company will be sending two more DC-10 Very Large Air Tankers to Australia as soon as the heavy maintenance presently underway is complete. He expects Tanker 912 to arrive in Australia on January 15 to be followed 10 days later by Tanker 914. They will join Tanker 911 that arrived in November. The DC-10  can carry up to 9,400 gallons of water or retardant.

fire Helicopters Australia’s Department of Defence transporting fire refugees
Helicopters from Australia’s Department of Defence has been transporting fire refugees to safer ground. DOD photo.

Here is the text of a January 4 announcement from the Australasian Fire and Emergency Service Authorities Council:


“Following a request from the Australasian Fire and Emergency Service Authorities Council (AFAC) representing 31 fire and emergency service Chiefs and Commissioners, the Prime Minister has announced $20m additional funding for the lease of large firefighting aircraft to assist the ongoing bushfire crisis in Australia.

“AFAC President and Commissioner Fire and Rescue New South Wales, Paul Baxter QSO, welcomed the news.

” ‘On behalf of AFAC, we are heartened by the Prime Minister’s announcement of additional funding and ongoing commitment from the Commonwealth to AFAC through the National Aerial Firefighting Centre (NAFC). This ongoing commitment will support states and territories working together with us to advance long term planning and resourcing arrangements for aerial firefighting. AFAC is working with the Commonwealth to make the necessary arrangements to have these four large aircraft operational as soon as possible. We will also be working with states and territories on the strategic positioning of the aircraft, so that there is flexibility for them to be able to move around the country to protect life and property, supporting the efforts of crews on the ground’.

“The Commonwealth will fund leasing costs, with operational costs to be covered by the states and territories.

“The announcement today is an example of national collaboration, facilitated through AFAC and its business unit, NAFC.

“On behalf of the states and territories, NAFC contracts and manages a fleet of over 140 special aircraft across Australia and maintains arrangements to share access to firefighting aircraft to meet jurisdictional demands.”

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17 thoughts on “Australian Prime Minister says four more large air tankers will be ordered”

    1. Australia brings in a DC-10 that holds about 9,000 gallons? When they need to bring in the Super tanker 747 that holds about 19,000 gallons!
      THE Super tanker that was brought in to stop the Amazon and California fires.
      Hey news media get the word out!

  1. Still too little. Still far too late. There has been greater tha 12m acres burnt nationwide since September. More than 20 people have been killed and home losses will push towards 2000 after the horror run of the Currowan fire on the 4th January.

    While some additional VLAT and LATs are obviously going to be useful the Commonwealth Government needs to open their cheque book up BIG TIME:

    1) This fire season has been unique in how many fires are burning all the way to the sea on the east coast. Many fires that have caused immense damage could have been attacked with great efficiency with scooper type fixed wing aircraft (e.g. Nambucca Heads, Currowan, Comberton, Mallacoota, Gospers Mountain to name just a handful). NSW has a multitude of rivers, inlets, bays, estuaries etc suitable for the task yet our scooper fleet is comprised of a grand total of TWO Fireboss aircraft in the fleet!

    2) Get more large rotorcraft in with the ability to snorkel from forward deployed phos-chek mixing stations like they use in California. The short cycle times means retardant lines would have been far more effective plus these choppers could be used to rapidly attack spot fires that jump the firefront from ember attack.

    3) Order some damn MAFFS for the Air Force’s C-130J fleet already! When you have a grand total of SEVEN LAT and VLATs in the fleet (pre the additional 4 being brought in), getting TWELVE C-130’s on the job even with a modular system with smaller tankage would make a MASSIVE difference!

    1. OC, MAFFS would be a terrific system for Australia as it plans for an uncertain future. At $4 mm per unit, they cost about as much as one annual CWN contract and would give Australia the ability to cultivate surge capacity for many years to come. Can be used the same way USFS uses their systems. There is currently a petition to bring MAFFS to Australia that you can find at https://www.change.org/p/scott-morrison-australia-s-c130-s-to-have-modular-airborne-fire-fighting-system-maffs-capability

  2. This is Stupid. Just like when Evergreen had the 1st Supertanker, and was told they weren’t needed and half a Town burned in Texas.
    Just Stupid.
    Australian Govt. should Call this Airtanker Now.

  3. Wouldn’t it be considered to be ‘humanitarian aid’ for the General Assembly of the United Nations to have some mutually agreed upon aviation assets identified available for deployment for large scale firefighting situations in civil deployment instances. My simple thought is that retired airliners with substantial cycles of life remaining (and thereby allowed to fly at unpressurized altitudes for longer years of time) be ‘donated for fire suppression service conversion’ with some tax or duty-free benefits to the donator be gifted, and be stored & staged at secure & qualified air staging based (Arizona, Sydney, Brazil et al) with pre-qualified airmen/airwoman to crew them (et al).

    Probably could be a meaningful sized resource for UN Members at a cost of very few explosive bombs or rockets per contributing member.

    IMHO

  4. you need much more air power in Australia,,,its a war against the fires,,bring the big boy dc10spr tanker,,need to double the air drops,,NOW,,bring the us monster,,,,,and more,,they only can do so much on the ground, attack these fires NOW,,austraila is such a beautiful country,doesnt need this,,so much wildlife gone, people to ,,hit fires hard from the air,,cant count on rain so whats the next best thing? air power,,heavy water bombing,,god help this beautiful country that I love,,

  5. ATTACK these fires now with the big boys from the us,,heavy water bombing,,god they need it now,,usa and Australia, as 1 ,,,love you Australia,,ps- heavy water bombing,,stop the suffering,,so so much lost already,,over power the fires,,

    1. Scott.
      Nice to see your enthusiasm
      Super tankers are not and never will be the answer to putting out wildfires.
      The current fire in Gippsland will take around 8000 flights to encircle and contain and this assumes that the fire never breaches the line of retardant.
      What is needed is proper and managed COLD hazard reduction burns to reduce the fuel load plus proper maintenance of the fire access roads.
      If you know any mountain bike riders . or cross country motorcyclists, ask them about the conditions of these road.
      Next step is far far better fire detection.
      The current crop of big boys like to pretend they are soficticated and have big boys toys so they closed all the fire watch towers in favour of highly unreliable satelite data, then if they get a read they despatch a plane or perhaps wait an hour or more to confirm the hot spot from another satelite and then sent a spotter aeroplane by which time the 0.25 Ha fire is now a 5 Ha fire and bordering on the limits of a fire bomber to extinguish.
      They then scramble some bombers to the fire which is now 1o Ha by the time they get there and beyond their capacity to extinguish.
      HQ then decides if they will attempt to do anything or leave it till it encounters a natural fire break.This is exactly how the Green Wattle Creek fire went from “nothing to worry about: to a 270,000 Ha fire that killed 3 people and destroyed 60 houses and a round 250 out buildings.

      Now if we are to get more airpower what is needed is the same units as Korea & Indonesia have ordered.
      Skycranes fitted with 4″ or 6” water cannon which basically is a big fire engine that flies.
      The water cannon allows the water to be deployed a lot more accurately than a blind dump & cross you fingers that it lands where it will do some good.
      These coulld be placed where they are less than 1/2 from known fire hot spots ane being able to fly at night, hover over the fire can sent intel back to HQ while actually putting the fire or or containing it till ground crews can arrive .
      Now if we really want to spend some smart money we would evaluate the PCADS system and if found useful then we could use out existing fleet of military aircraft for a tiny fraction of the cost of renting TV fodder.

      1. hi thanks for the reply,,i still believe in water bombers ,,as they need more to over power these fires,,i just think continued water drops in single formation , I understand that they need to fight it on the ground too, ofcourse,, and the methods they use to try to contain it,,and the dense wooded areas I’m sure are tough for the fire fighters on the ground to get to,,so I understand what your saying about what to use for water bombers,,in this case I think bigger and more is better,,much larger capacity in water on these fires,,no rain [wish to god it would] in the near future, whats the next best thing,,heavy water bombing,, god please make it rain,,such a beautiful country,stop the suffering,,,,

  6. Mother Nature is running the show. Only when a short term climatic weather changes occur will there be a chance for fire fighting resources to complete and accomplish the incident (s) plan. Like an inch of rain; which may only be a temporary relieve for fire fighters. Long range wetting rain is the solution.

    1. I agree,, its so sad,,all the wildlife lost and more,,homes ,people etc,,theres got to be some containment here somewhere, its been going on for like 4 months or so,,,need something positive,,i think the response was to slow,,4 months ago,,,im praying for a positive change for everyone there,,,need good news somewhere here,,i love animals,,it just hurts to see this,,

  7. The facts are that, 1- Mother Nature is in charge and 2- Australia is behind the times in wildland firefighting, let alone aerial firefighting. This has been a wakeup call to start getting their schtuff together.

  8. Qantas arephasing out the use of their747_400 aircraft as the A380 and B 787 are more efficient and profitable replacements So here is a wonderful opportunity for Australia to obtain their very own VLAT fleet.they also have the engineering expertise to design,install and certify the required systems. Beats parking them up in some American desert to await being stripped down for spare parts and scrap aluminium to be made into new aircraft.Out of our fire season they would be available to lease to other countries as needed.And think of the positive effect on farmers in drought ravaged areas of 4 o r 5 aircraft flying over dropping 5000gallonsof water each from an altitude that would simulate rain.The beauty of the 747 is that it is the fastest subsonic airliner out there so it ‘s turn around time is higher than most of the other fire bombers from off the scene to back on.It retains a large number of seats so they can move personell from fire to fire as required

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