Australia’s aerial firefighting retardant supplies have been boosted thanks to the strong relationship between the US Air Force and the Royal Australian Air Force.
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An RAAF C-17A Globemaster III collected the first 20-tonne load of critical fire retardant powder from Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, and delivered it to RAAF Base Richmond on 18 January to support state and federal emergency authorities.
A second load of retardant arrived on 19 January on an RAAF KC-30A multi-role tanker transport. A total of 117 tonnes will be delivered in four loads over the coming week as part of Operation Bushfire Assist.
Chief of Air Force, Air Marshal Mel Hupfeld, was thankful that USAF and US stakeholders helped support the movement of retardant, saying, "The Royal Australian Air Force deeply appreciates the offer of help from the United States Air Force. The Australian people are comforted to know that in times of need, we have great friends like the United States who are ready to lend a hand."
The fire retardant supply will be used by civilian large air tanker and very large air tanker (VLAT) aircraft during bushfire fighting missions in Australia.
The delivery has been timely, with the arrival of a DC-10 VLAT and a C-17A with essential VLAT spare parts into Canberra on 17 January to mark the first of four new aerial firefighting aircraft announced by the Australian government recently.
No. 1 Joint Movement Unit co-ordinated the many supporting organisations required to manage the complex re-supply, working with the USAF, Emergency Management Australia, Australian Border Force, the Department of Agriculture and RAAF air movement teams on the ground.
The unit's commanding officer, Captain Fiona McNaught, said she was proud of her team’s professionalism in co-ordinating the complex tasks.
"There was extensive international engagement and inter-agency co-ordination involved in the movement and delivery of the DC-10 spares and the fire retardant from the US to Australia. The professionalism and efficiency of all organisations and individuals involved was nothing short of superb," CAPT McNaught said.
Operation Bushfire Assist is the Australian Defence Force’s response in support of the ongoing bushfire crisis across NSW, Victoria and South Australia.
ADF personnel have been working with state and territory authorities since September 2019 in response to Australia’s bushfire crisis. This support will continue for as long as needed.
More than 800 Air Force personnel from about 71 units and a number of aircraft are working in support of Operation Bushfire Assist, including up to three C-27J Spartans, two C-130J Hercules, a C-17A Globemaster, a P-8A Poseidon and three B350 King Air aircraft.