Giant Firefighting Plane To Battle Aussie Summer Blazes

It's the size of a passenger jet, and it's called Gaia.

It's the world-first secret weapon NSW authorities hope will help battle what is expected to be a dangerous summer and a bad bushfire season.

The multi-million dollar aircraft, bought from the U.S., is getting ready to take to the skies.

NSW's Large Air Tanker program has been bolstered by the plane they call 'Gaia'. The 737-style plane is already being called one of the "heroes" of the air. It can hold 15,000 litres of firefighting chemicals, which it would drop over blazes to damp down conditions.

The state's emergency services minister Troy Grant said the Rural Fire Service would buy Gaia. Grant said the plane was the world's first firefighting '737' aircraft, and unlike other aerial firefighting resources, this one would be based permanently in NSW, not just rented or borrowed from overseas.

“With longer bush fire seasons comes the increasing threat of severe fires, which is why the NSW Government is leading the way by providing our firies with the very best resources to help protect lives and properties," Grant said.

“These aircraft really are heroes in the sky when our firies are battling big blazes with little relief from the gruelling conditions."

NSW Rural Fire Service deputy commissioner Rob Rogers said his team was looking forward to having the new resource in their arsenal.

“Having these aircraft available to assist our firefighters on the ground is such an important tool to have in the kit all year round,” he said.

Climate scientists fear climate change could lead to more frequent and dangerous wild fires in coming years -- like the deadly blazes that have ripped through California.

Australia and the U.S. have shared firefighting resources like planes and helicopters for years, but experts say that climate change is leading to longer danger periods for fires, meaning that there may soon be times when both countries need firefighting aircraft at the same time.  This could endanger both nations.

A house in flames in the Californian blazes (Image AAP/Ringo H.W. Chiu)

That's why NSW getting its own permanently-stationed plane is important, the RFS said.

‘Gaia’ is the last of a record four LATs being used during this year’s bush fire season, and has recently completed testing in the U.S. so it can now be dispatched into the field when required," Rogers said.

Gaia and other aircraft will soon join the state's firefighting fleet.

Contact the author jbutler@networkten.com.au

Featured image: Supplied