Major jet aircraft joins the fight this bushfire season

The largest ever fleet of water-bombing aircraft in Australia has been assembled in anticipation of the worst bushfire season since the Black Summer of 2019/2020.

The biggest aircraft in the fleet is a customised Boeing 737 Large Air Tanker that's capable of carrying 15,000 litres of water or retardant and can work in remote, hard to access locations.

The aircraft is leased from US-based company Coulson Airlines, which provides much of Australia's firefighting air fleet as well as the pilots.

The RFS expects the tanker will be a huge boost when responding to a bushfire season that's likely to test emergency services, with hot El Nino conditions predicted throughout summer.

Emergency Management Minister Murray Watt said the aircraft would go a long way towards keeping Australians safe this summer.

"We have been able to assemble the largest ever fleet of water-bombing aircraft in Australia," he told reporters on Tuesday. 

"We will have a fleet of about 500 aircraft available to use in different parts of the country."

Emergency Minister Murray Watt (R) & Coulson Aviation's John Gallahert
Senator Watt says the air tanker will go a long way towards keeping Australians safe this summer.

The federal government spends $31 million per year on firefighting aircraft.

NSW RFS Commissioner Rob Rogers said his crews had been preparing for another Black Summer and new technology was crucial in dealing with bushfires which were worsening due to climate change.

"We're harnessing technology to do even better than last time," he said.

Australia did not have access to the tanker during the 2019/20 bushfires but this summer it will be based in Richmond in Sydney's far west, ready to be deployed nationwide if required and is capable of reaching a fire just about anywhere within hours.

The national council for fire and emergency services has forecast an increased bushfire risk for large areas of the country this summer.

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