The government of Western Australia (WA) has committed to a budget of $11 million over four years in its 2022-2023 State Budget for the acquisition of the first Large Air Tanker (LAT) permanently based in the state.
The aircraft will be based at a currently undetermined local airport for three months each year between December and March, when the state is especially vulnerable to bushfires. In a statement, the WA government said that it believed the new aircraft would provide a ‘major boost’ to the state’s firefighting fleet.
The WA government also stated: “LATs are faster, have a larger capacity, longer range, are able to fly in extreme conditions and under low visibility and will provide the Department of Fire and Emergency Services with significant complementary fire suppression capability.”
It follows the acquisition of two Black Hawks by the state on a three-year contract.
The new aircraft will reduce the state’s reliance on the national government
The state is currently reliant on the provision of aircraft supplied on loan by the National Aerial Firefighting Centre. During the 2021 to 2022 bushfire season which saw four simultaneous major fires in February alone, several NAFC LATs were employed, proving particularly effective in containing the blazes.
The contracted national LAT performed 76 drops totalling 984,557 litres of retardant during the summer, while borrowed LATs from other states performed 41 drops totalling 460,964 litres of retardant.
“Western Australia has the largest emergency management jurisdiction in the southern hemisphere, which is why our government has committed to providing a WA-based LAT for the first time,” said Stephen Dawson, WA’s Emergency Services Minister. “It is imperative that the State's aerial fleet has all the resources it needs to keep local communities, the length and breadth of the vast expanses of WA, safe during bushfire season.”