World’s largest water bomber and heli firefighters

Earth is getting hotter in many areas. The 2010s was the warmest decade since tracking began in 1880. Global temperature, in general, keeps increasing, creating conditions that intensify wildfire danger, by warming and drying out vegetation and by stirring the winds that spread fires.

Fast fires are hard to contain and likely to expand into residential areas. Already about 1 billion people live in areas prone to natural disasters.

The United States suffer from one of the highest fire death rates in the industrialized world, with more than 2 million fires reported each year. More than 4,000 Americans, including 100 firefighters, lose their lives and another 26,500 are injured annually as the result of fire. 

Water bombers

Fire Departments around the world call on “water bombers” to fight large fires. Carrying huge amounts of water and retardants, they actually are more cost-efficient than most other fire fighting methods.

One of these water bombers is the Erickson Helitanker, a converted Sikorsky S-64 Skycrane. It can deliver 2,650 gallon (10 000 litres) of water in one drop, and, using a ram scoop hydrofoil, refill from any water source 18 inches (45 cm) deep in about 45 seconds. The Helitanker can precision deliver 30,000 gallons (110,000 litres) per hour.

Erickson Helitanker

The Helitanker’s water cannon attached to the tank forces a stream of water or foam mix at 300 gallons (1 140 liters) per minute over a range of 200 ft (~60 meters).

Fixed wing water bombers

Other aircraft are used too, such as the C-130, Martin Mars, DC-6, Beriev Be-200 and Canadair CL-415 Superscooper (Bombardier 415).

Canadair CL-415 Superscooper
Canadair CL-415 Superscooper (Bombardier 415)
Image Wikipedia

One of the largest and fastest of the water bombers is the turbofan jet Ilyushin-76TD (Il-76).

Ilyushin-76TD waterbomber

The Iluyshin IL-76 water bomber can reach a fire anywhere in the world within 12 hours. Carrying 11,000 gallons (42 000 litres) of water and fire retardants – 4 times as much as a C-130 – it can, in one run, dump enough water to cover 6 double-wide football fields, or an area 0.7 miles (1,1 km) in length. 

Outfitted with a twin-tank system capable of carrying 135,000 pounds of liquid, it can be filled and be ready for takeoff in 15 minutes.

The Boeing 747 Supertanker, introduced in 2009, has a capacity of 20,500 US gallons (17,000 Imperial gallons or 77 600 litres). It is the fastest water bomber, able to fly at 600 knots.

Boeing 747 Supertanker

Tanker comparisons

The Il-76, the world's largest waterbomber

Tanker, Gallons, Knots

747 Supertanker 20,500 gal 600 kn

Il-76 11,000 gal 400 kn

Martin Mars 7,200 gal 165 kn

KC-97 4,500 gal 210 kn

Beriev Be-200 3,170 gal 380 kn

C-130 3,000 gal 250 kn

DC-6 3,000 gal 235 kn

CL-415 Superscooper 1,600 gal 194 kn

Helitanker 2,000 gal N/A

Environmental News Network

US Forest Service

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02/06/2010. Category: vehicles. Tags: , .

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