Today I’m thinking about the wildfires raging in British Columbia. And how to increase our capacity to respond. One resource worth considering is that Canada has five C-17 Globemaster III aircraft. This research paper was presented at the 16th Australian International Aerospace Congress, in 2015. It says the C-17 could (in theory) temporarily become a 50,000 litre air tanker. Here’s the abstract:
Australian summers are hot and dry and bushfires are a significant risk to life and property. The worst ever recorded natural disaster were the Victorian Black Saturday Bushfires in 2009, where 173 people lost their lives. To limit bushfire damage, an effective firefighting capability is essential. This project investigated the feasibility of using existing military assets and converting them to firefighting/control capability on an as required basis. This paper presents a conceptual design of a RAAF C-17 Globemaster III conversion to a temporary firefighting platform that provides three support roles: water drop, in-flight refill of standard firefighting aircraft and in-situ surveillance, command and control. Provisions were made for quick conversion with minor structural modifications to allow return to military status.
In the Canadian Forces, these aircraft are designated as the CC-177 Globemaster III. This plane can travel very long distances and carry extremely heavy payloads. And it can operate from short runways in difficult environments all over the world.
There have been calls to bring the Martin Mars water bomber back into service. However the Martin Mars “only” holds 27,276 litres of water (compared to 50,000 litres, potentially, for the C-17). The Martin Mars has been in service since 1944. Over seventy years! Not a lot of aircraft that have been in operation for that long. The C-17 Globemaster III entered service in 1995, so that’s a fifty year difference in aircraft technology.
Obviously this is not something that could be used right now, but perhaps it is worth exploring for the future.