13 November 2018
Victoria’s night firebombing trial will continue in 2018-19 summer and test the use of night vision technology for aerial firebombing operations at night.
Night-time aerial firebombing has the potential to significantly improve Victoria’s firefighting capability by building on the work done during the day to contain fires.
The next phase of the trial seeks to determine how night firebombing can be integrated into existing control arrangements, and build capability and confidence in operating aircraft after dark using night vision technology.
The trial will start this week for the summer and will be based at Ballarat and Mangalore Airports. The aircraft will be able to be deployed across the state.
Emergency Management Commissioner Andrew Crisp said the trial would see aircraft deployed to a range of scenarios, including target simulation and progressing to real fires. Assessments will be made throughout the trial on how best to integrate the capability within existing control arrangements.
“The trial is safety focused and builds on the successful work done in Ballarat during the 2017-18 summer season,” he said.
“The trial includes a range of training scenarios and flights which demonstrate the capability at night to hover above a water source to fill the aircraft before dropping water on a range of targets including fires at designated locations.
“Night crews will need to complete reconnaissance flights during the afternoon before water bombing flights during the night. The water bombing helicopter will work with a tactical helicopter which will provide support through direction and intelligence.
“Night operations would be used as an extension of day operations, meaning aircraft will be able to assist ground crews on fires for longer.”
Field-based training activities will occur throughout the month and involve a range of sites. This can include limited deployment on controlled burns, if the opportunity arises.
Night firebombing will occur on actual fires where it can add value to fire operations, or in circumstances where the experience can help build or improve the night firebombing capability.
This is an innovative and progressive trial as night time aerial firebombing has not been undertaken in Victoria or Australia before.
Emergency Management Victoria is partnering with Forest Fire Management Victoria and CFA. The trial is supported by and builds on a strong partnership with Civil Aviation Safety Authority, the National Aerial Firefighting Centre, Victorian, interstate and overseas agencies.
The outcome of this next phase of the trial will guide the future use of night-time aerial firebombing operations in Victoria.
While the use of Night Vision Goggles and infrared technology is not new, this has not been used together in Victoria – or Australia for firebombing. Since 2010, Victoria has used night vision technology to identify new fire starts and monitor hot spots. Firebombing at night would be an extension of this.