After we heard rumors about it for a few days, the government of New South Wales in Australia has confirmed that they intend to contract for a large, and possibly very large air tanker (LAT or VLAT).
At this time the state of Victoria is contracting during this 2014/2015 bushfire season two LATs supplied by Coulson and Conair, a 3,000-gallon RJ-85 and a 4,000-gallon C-130Q.
NSW Premier Mike Baird and Minister for Police and Emergency Services Stuart Ayres said today that this would be the first time that an LAT has been under contract in the state. While their press release did not specify the time period during which the aircraft would be under contract, another report said they would be used “during the next bushfire season”, which would begin near the end of 2015. And since this bushfire season will be winding down in a while, it would be nearly impossible for a typical government agency to put one under contract for the remainder of this 2014/2015 season if they have not been working on it for months. However, the U.S. Forest Service sets a very low bar for their efficiency in awarding air tanker contracts.
NSW expects to acquire under contract for a “trial”, one air tanker that would hold between 15,000 litres and 40,000 litres (3,962 gallons to 10,566 gallons) of water or fire retardant. If they stick with these specs, that would eliminate the RJ-85, BAe-146, BE-200, and of course the Korean War vintage P2V, leaving, among existing or soon to be flyable privately owned air tankers, the Coulson’s C-130Q and L-382, Erickson’s MD-87, and 10 Tanker’s DC-10.
In addition, the NSW Government announced today that they will:
- Commit to additional hazard reduction activities;
- Provide NSW with an enhanced fire trail network;
- Invest in four regionally-based fire fighting training centres; and
- Provide the public with important bush fire information in their locality through an online portal, building on the success of the ‘Fires Near Me’ app.