Giant bomber in fire plans


A WATER bomber capable of carrying more than 40,000 litres of water and fire retardant may be used against bushfires in Victoria next season.
The Russian Ilyushin-76 can carry almost five times the load of the famed Erickson Air-Crane heli-tanker that is affectionately known as Elvis.
The IL-76 is believed to be the biggest and fastest water bomber in the world.
More than a million hectares of the state was burnt during the summer bushfire season and 41 houses destroyed in an area stretching from Mt Buffalo in the state’s north east to the NSW border and Tubbut in East Gippsland.
The Victorian Government put the cost of fighting the summer bushfires at $2 million a day. The fire in the north-east took 59 days to contain.
The IL-76 can drop a massive sheet of water – up to 1.2km long and 80m wide – in less than 15 seconds.
Global Emergency Response, the US company that markets the air tanker, says Australia could lease one of the aircraft for about $1.6 million for three months.
A spokesman for GER said the IL-76 could have extinguished last summer’s fires in a fraction of the time it took conventional firefighters and smaller aerial means.
Australian fire agencies will meet in Melbourne on Wednesday to determine aircraft needs for next fire season.
Australasian Fire Authorities Council chief executive and Country Fire Authority chairman Len Foster said the IL-76 could be included in the strategy.
“The IL-76 is a very, very good firefighting aircraft,” he said.
“It would be quite possible, in an appropriate mix of aircraft, for it to play a role.”
But Mr Foster said the aircraft could not be used everywhere.
Tom Robinson, chief of GER and international liaison to Russia’s Ministry for Emergency Situations, welcomed the news that Australian agencies might lease the IL-76.
“I think it’s absolutely wonderful,” he said.
“Whoever is bold enough to go against the tide will become a hero when that first plane comes over Australian soil and puts out the first fire.
“This is the plane to stop a massive fire when nothing else can stop it.”


 © Herald and Weekly Times


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