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Hercules firefighting tanker arrives in Australia

written by australianaviation.com.au | August 31, 2015

A Lynden Air Cargo C130 firefighting air tanker at Brisbane Airport. (Lance Broad)
The Lynden Air Cargo C-130 at Brisbane Airport. (Lance Broad)

A Lockheed Hercules firefighting air tanker has arrived at RAAF Base Richmond ahead of entering service with the NSW Rural Fire Service.

The stretched L-100-30 (model 382G) Hercules, registered N405LC to Lynden Air Cargo and on contract from Coulson Flying Tankers of Portland, Oregon, arrived at Brisbane Airport on Sunday afternoon.

After an overnight, it then headed to RAAF Base Richmond on Monday morning.

The contact with the NSW Rural Fire Service is due to begin on September 1, according to a post on Coulson Flying Tankers’ Facebook page.

N405LC is the larger sistership to C-130Q Hercules air tanker N130FF which operated in Australia during last summer’s bushfire season under contract with the Victorian Department of Environment and Primary Industries.


The NSW Rural Fire Service has been contacted for further information.

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Comments (16)

  • Dane


    Why the RAAF has not procured or developed some type of roll on/roll off fire fighting system bewilders me. Instead of using oversea assets, why not use taxpayer trained and funded aircrew to fight bushfires?

  • Raymond


    Dane, maybe because they’re an Air Force, not a Fire Service. It’s the RAAF, not the RAFS.

    • Dee Kay


      brought this up to make it relevant for 2020, RAAF are in place to defend life and property in this country.. perhaps that should include fires!

  • Craigy


    There were some trials in the 8os I think using a C130H from 36 Sqn where fire retardant was pumped out through two hoses off the ramp. I don’t know the results of the trials but maybe an inquiry to Defence may provide some answers. Besides is this really what we want the C130J to be doing?

    • Bill Keech


      No it isn’t but we could buy some decent size aircraft already outfitted for fighting fires with the money we give in so cal l ed aid to Indonesia & Vietnam each year.

  • Marc


    Didn’t we just send firefighters to California?

  • Geoff


    I would have thought with the bush fires the yanks are having, they would have delayed the arrival and retained the use of this aircraft for a week or so fighting their own bush fires.

  • Trash Hauler


    We already have a shortage of C130Js for the tasking they do. When 4 of the 12 airframes are in deeper level maintenance this doesn’t leave you with much. As nice as it would be to use our Hercs to help out, we are not a powerhouse of assets like the U.S, let alone trying to keep specialist fire crews qualified.

  • We lose too many lives and property to not have some type of professional water bombing organisation in Australia. Every time we have a bad fire season people die and property is destroyed – that’s not a situation that should continue. After all, we’re not a Third World country – are we?

  • Scott


    We refurbished, repainted and then gifted the remainder of our H Model fleet to our Indonseian neighbors when in reality we could have had them fitted as fire fighters to continue their service to the Australian taxpayers. The problem for Australia, and not just avaition, is that we are now so risk averse that we can’t initiate anything and are virtually dependant on other nations providing us with services and skills that we once used to do for ourselved.

  • Jason


    Four of the RAAF’s former H models were refurbished and gifted to Indonesia, five of them have been bought. They all require/required a substantial amount of work, including new wing boxes on some.

  • Red Barron


    I tend to agree with some of these comments on Military assistance. With 7 x C17 plus 1 on order, 12 x C130J’s and the incoming C27’s surely we can get the flight hours from some platform.

    I have always wondered why we never put Bambi water buckets on the 35 odd Blackhawks. Yes I can hear it now all the Pro Military people out there screaming they are a defence force not a fire force but when the black hawks can carry nearly 3 times the weight of a Squirrel/Bell chopper and the Army aviation are not doing a lot in peacetime besides training and flying air shows as a tax payer this makes sense. Otherwise all these subcontractors are getting the business.

    Surely 2-3 Black hawks / MRH90’S based in Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide over the fire season would be cheaper and more use full in flying hours than bringing over Elvis sky cranes and these C130’s.

    There’s my cat amongst the Pigeons comment. Look forward to hearing the replies 🙂


  • BH


    From memory didn’t the government once own a fleet of Iroquois based water bombers with belly tanks operated by the old National Safety Council of Australia & the Country Fire Authority back in the 80’s /early 90’s…?

  • Aero Eng Aviator


    There is an assumption here that water bombing is effective in extinguishing bush fires. I admit that it looks dramatic and gives the appearance of something being done. From my reading, and in reality, dropping fire retardant from aircraft can extinguish small spot fires, which is useful in preventing them becoming high MW per metre raging infernos, which then can shrug off a relatively little piddle from above. Apart from that, aircraft are very good for positioning human fire fighters around quickly so they can contain or put out the fires.

    Since most fires around cities are started deliberately by humans we should be focussing our attention on a) catching the firebugs on site and b) getting human fire fighters to the fires quickly to extinguish them as small fires and before they have time to become high MW/metre raging infernos.

    On the other hand, surveillance UAVs deployed by the fire fighting authorities or police to monitor high risk areas on the higher fire risk days seem to me to be essential in providing information to achieve both a) and b).

    While still requiring a pilot, they are much cheaper to operate than a Hercules or a helicopter and would result in less criminality and less fire damage. Also would work for early deployment to fires started by electrical faults or lightning.

  • B. Harrison


    At last, the Rural Fire Service has finally done what all nations who suffer bush fires regularly do. That is, utilise heavy water bombers for bush firefighting. I recall back in the mid nineties being at a debrief after the Sydney Como fires which resulted in the loss of over 200 homes asking the question why don’t we use water bombing aircraft. Then the RFS didn’t even use helicopters which for fire fighting are about as useful as spitting on a major bush fire. It was not until the sky crane choppers (Elvis being the most famous) were brought from North America did people witness how effective these aircraft can be. With Hercules and soon a DC-10, these aircraft can drop 30 or 40 thousand litres of water with fire retardant and can truly make an impact. The RAAF was foolish in giving away those “H” model Hercs as they would have been ideal for this purpose. It has only taken the RFS a quarter of a century to finally realise that these aircraft are game changers. And the response to my question when asking why we don’t use aerial firefighting? The reply was fires are different in Australia. Please.

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