• Tony Bosworth

RAAF Richmond on the radar for national fire-fighting air fleet

During the last bushfire crisis RAAF Richmond was home to a fleet of fire bombers working tirelessly hand-in-hand with the RFS and operating state-wide. Despite the small amount of extra noise, there was welcome from the community that such a force was based here in the Hawkesbury.

Hercules C130 water bomber Thor was based at RAAF Richmond under contract from US company Coulson. Pic: Dept of Defence, Sgt Brett Sherriff

Now, Federal MP Susan Templeman is pushing hard for Richmond to be the permanent centre of a new national fire-fighting fleet, which is one of the major suggestions to come out of the Bushfire Royal Commission.

“It was an incredible hive of activity there,” said Ms Templeman. “And really comforting to see the planes coming and going. That’s certainly one bit of aircraft noise you don’t mind in the middle of a bushfire.”

The Bushfire Royal Commission recommends an Australian-based and registered national aerial fire-fighting capability, to be tasked according to greatest national need, plus research into the most effective aerial strategies and development of a sovereign aerial fire-fighting industry.

Water bomber Boomer on the ground at RAAF Richmond. Pic: Dept of Defence, Cpl David Gibbs

“It won’t surprise anyone that I will be arguing the case that this national fleet should be based at Richmond RAAF.”

Many of the large water tankers, their pilots and crews operating across NSW last year and early into 2020, were flown in from as far as the US on lease contract from overseas companies.

Refilling Thor during the last bushfire season at RAAF Richmond. Pic: Dept of Defence, Sgt Brett Sherriff

The Royal Commission recommended a home-based and home-grown fleet. Ms Templeman says this would lead to a new level of skill being learned by Australian flying teams.

“This obviously requires co-operation with the states, but it needs leadership from the Federal Government too,” the MP said.

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