In Focus

‘We cannot rely on other countries’: Will Australia form a sovereign aerial firefighting fleet?

Private companies like Aerotech are taking charge, buying large aerial firefighting helicopters – like the Black Hawk – needed to support Australia in its next bushfire crisis, but will the government do the same?

The 7th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment Reconnaissance and Snipers Platoon conducted Night Aerial Reconnaissance for fire mapping during the Orroral Valley Fire in Namadgi National Park, ACT, in February. (Department of Defence)

Private companies like Aerotech are taking charge, buying large aerial firefighting helicopters – like the Black Hawk – needed to support Australia in its next bushfire crisis, but will the government do the same?

Before the pandemic that uprooted society in seemingly archaic ways, ravaging bushfires sought to destroy Australia’s most precious land. Now, two years on, while the world faces its next crisis, the bushfire season taught the government some lessons when it comes to aerial firefighting: Australia is too reliant on overseas contractors and we do not have enough large air tankers (LATs) and very large air tankers (VLATs). While these factors were heavily highlighted in the Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements, the government has continued to send mixed messages on its plans since, which has led to private aerial firefighting companies, like Aerotech, stepping in and taking charge.

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