Given Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s non answer to a perfectly legitimate question from Tasmanian MP Andrew Wilkie (Fed Parliament Tuesday, 3 December 2019), on using RAAF airborne assets for firefighting, Morrison has effectively ruled out any chance of utilizing RAAF aircraft to assist the current (and according to the experts inadequate) fleet of water bombing aircraft.
Unbelievable short sightedness or plain stupidity given there are reports that he signed off on expenditure of around $200 million to upgrade the RAAF VIP fleet to fly him and Ministers around Australia & the World. Making this equipment available for around eight out of thirty of the RAAF Airborne Heavy Transport fleet on a temporary basis would cost a fraction of that amount.
If Morrison is refusing to seriously consider extra Fire Bombing assets as requested by the experts because he’s worried about a Defence Budget blow out impacting on his already diminishing and imaginary surplus then he should be charged with criminal neglect.
In part 1 of my WordPress contribution posted on Wednesday December 11, I suggested roll on roll off firefighting equipment could be available off the shelf from overseas sources. After some further research I find this capability, specifically designed for use in the C 130 Hercules Aircraft has been available in the USA since the 1970’s.
The modular design of the equipment facilitates fast inserting removing & charging the appliances from the aircraft (in usually less than an hour – MAFFS 1) No doubt the Military will suggest there are plenty of reasons as to why the RAAF is not fit for purpose and this can’t be achieved. They always do. We need some progressive forward thinking to counter the usual negative response. This would significantly increase our Aerial Fire Bombing capability and quickly allow the Aircraft to resume normal duties between firebombing tasks.
Eight of these modules could easily be purchased and shipped to Australia at a very reasonable cost. In fact I’d suggest less than $2 million dollars in total. After all they’re just tanks, hoses fittings and air compressors. The infrastructure & personnel needed to maintain, store, charge and load the equipment already exists at RAAF Bases in every Capital City in Australia.
As well as the USA, Modular Airborne Fire Fighting Systems (MAFFS) are in use in the Colombian Air Force, Brazilian Air Force, Royal Moroccan Air Force and the Royal Thai Air Force C-130s. It was also formerly used in the Portuguese Air Force C-130s.
Below are images and specifications on the MAFFS were sourced from the MAFFS Corp Website & Wikipedia.
Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System (MAFFS) are portable fire retardant delivery systems that can be inserted into military C-130 aircraft without major structural modifications to rapidly convert them into air tankers when needed.
Maffs Corp is a combination of two leading aftermarket support companies, United Aeronautical Corporation and Blue Aerospace. As an owner of some applicable intellectual property, tooling, and assets related to the design and manufacturing of retardant delivery systems including MAFFS I and II and RADS II, Maffs Corp assists with the service and support of existing systems as well as the design and construction of new aerial tanking and effluent delivery systems.
The first MAFFS system consists of a series of five pressurised fire retardant tanks with a total capacity of 2,700 US gallons (10,000 litres; 2,200 imp gal) and associated equipment which is palletised and rolled into the aircraft’s cargo bay. In addition to the retardant tanks, each module contains a pressure tank where compressed air is stored at 82.7 bar (1200 psi).
The control module includes the master control panel, the loadmaster seat, and discharge valves. An air compressor module provides air pressure for charging the system; it stays at the air tanker base during air operations and is used to recharge the system between runs. Each unit weighs about 11,000 pounds (5,000 kg).
Air tankers are categorized by their retardant capacity, and although the MAFFS capacity is just under 3,000 US gallons (11,000 litres; 2,500 imp gal), a MAFFS C-130 is considered a Type 1 air tanker, which is the largest class. Retardant exits through two tubes which extend out the plane’s aft cargo bay doors. The system can disperse all 10,220 L (2,700 gal) in five seconds over a fire, producing a fire line that is 60 feet (18 m) wide and a 400 m (quarter mile) long. Returning to base It can be reloaded in eight minutes.
Aero Union, under contract to the USFS, has developed an improved version of the system, known as the MAFFS II. The new system has a capacity of up to 3,000 US gallons (11,000 litres; 2,500 imp gal), replacing the five retardant tanks with one large tank, and has two on-board air compressors.
This appliance can be installed into a Hercules Cargo Hold in under 2 hours.
The original MAFFS has to be pressurized by a compressor on the ground as a part of the loading process. The ability to pressurize the system in the air significantly cuts turn-around time. The new system discharges the retardant through a special plug in the paratroop drop door on the side of the aircraft, rather than requiring the cargo ramp door to be opened; this allows the aircraft to remain pressurized during the drop sequence.
Far more significantly, the cargo ramp and door can remain closed, cutting drag considerably, and thereby allowing a greater performance margin than available with MAFFS I.
(The content on this Post is being up-dated.)