Western Australia acquires 2 C130 Large Air Tankers for aerial firefighting

A Coulson Aviation Large Air Tanker (LAT) on the tarmac.
Photo Credit: DFES

LONDON -The addition of two Large Air Tankers (LATs) will significantly strengthen Western Australia’s firefighting capability as emergency services prepare for a busy bushfire season. 

A C130 Hercules LAT, which will remain in the state of Western Australia (WA) for the high threat fire season, was unveiled yesterday. 

The WA state government secured the aircraft with an $11 million investment to ensure there is a locally based LAT in the State for the first time. The commitment runs for four seasons. 

A Commonwealth-funded LAT – a Boeing 737 Fireliner – will arrive later this month and be based in WA. This arrangement has been secured from the Australasian Fire and Emergency Service Authorities Council National Resource Sharing Centre. 

The WA state government will fund the operational costs for the National LAT while it is based in WA. 

Aircraft to be based in WA south-west

Both LATs, which have the capacity to carry more than 15,000 litres of fire suppressant, will be based at Busselton-Margaret River Airport in the South-West. 

The aircraft will be a major addition to WA’s aerial fleet, a key component of the State’s firefighting arsenal. 

The aerial fleet comprises 36 rotary and fixed-wing suppression and aerial intelligence aircraft and for the second consecutive year will feature two Black Hawk helicopters that can hold up to 4500 litres of water or suppressant. 

Photo: Coulson Aviation Large Air Tanker (LAT). Photo Credit: DFES

During 2021/2022 the aerial firefighting fleet, managed by the Department of Fire and Emergency Services (DFES) and Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions, logged more than 1,600 hours flight time and completed almost 4,700 drops across the State. 

The two LATs are owned and operated by Coulson Aviation and will fly under the directives of DFES while based in WA. 

Emergency Services comments

Emergency Services Minister Stephen Dawson stated: “WA is the largest emergency management jurisdiction in the southern hemisphere and having two LATs exclusively for our State over the high-risk bushfire season will provide a major boost to our firefighting capability.”

“According to all the latest weather information we are facing a very challenging bushfire season. As the Emergency Services Minister, I welcome all the firefighting firepower that we can muster to be totally prepared for any major fires that we face.”

“The McGowan Government is investing more than $140 million into ensuring our emergency services have the latest and the best equipment for the fire season, including new appliances, new facilities and personal protective clothing.

“As part of this comprehensive strategy it’s vital that our State’s aerial fleet has all the resources it needs to keep local communities and firefighters safe across the vast expanses of WA.

 “The LATs are well-suited to aerial firefighting in the WA environment due to their greater endurance and fast-cruising speeds, and are a welcome addition to our aerial fleet this summer.”

Fire and Emergency Services Commissioner Darren Klemm AFSM added: “The seasonal outlook for this summer indicates that large parts of Western Australia are going to experience an increased bushfire risk – we know that we’re going to see difficult days this season.”

“Large Air Tankers are incredibly effective at building containment lines to stop the spread of bushfires and will help our firefighters on the ground to protect lives and properties.” 

“Both aircraft can cover vast distances at high speed – the 737 Fireliner can travel at speeds of more than 700km/h when fully loaded – and carry more than 15,000 litres of fire suppressant.” 

“Each day during the summer bushfire season there will be more than 30 aircraft on standby in Western Australia, ready to be called upon in an emergency.”

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