Rival European Airlifters Become Firefighters

 - December 13, 2013, 12:10 PM
Alenia has developed disposable cardboard containers for its C-27J firefighting system (left) whereas the Airbus Military C295 uses a conventional ejection system (right). (Photos: Alenia and Airbus Military)

Airbus Military and Alenia Aermacchi have performed firefighting trials of their competing tactical airlifters, the C295 and the C-27J, respectively. As defense budgets tighten, both companies are hoping to sell new, cost-effective applications such as these.

Airbus Military fitted a 3,500-liter tank in a C295 and conducted seven water drops on a range in Cordoba, Spain. The water was gravity-ejected through two dispensers in the belly, and equipment on the ground measured the dispersal pattern. The company said that the trials showed “good initial promise.” A definitive C295 firefighter would carry two 3,500-liter tanks on a roll-on/roll-off system that would permit the aircraft to perform transport duties at other times.

Coincidentally, Alenia Aermacchi flight-tested a firefighting system that uses up to six disposable cardboard containers with a capacity of 1,000 liters. The system “guarantees extreme precision of the drop and creates a retardant liquid cloud well focused on the target,” the company said. The containers can be dropped from 1,500 feet, a higher altitude than most firefighting aircraft use when dropping retardant. They are biodegradable but can also be recovered by firefighters on the ground. The Romanian air force’s seven C-27Js will be the first application for the system.