The use of airplanes to drop water and retardants on forest fires is an effective strategy that has helped save many lives and prevent damage to the environment and private property.
In a similar effort, Airbus has developed an autonomous firefighting kit which converts a standard Airbus A400M turboprop military transport aircraft into a firefighting bomber to drop water and retardants on large fires.
Airbus Defense and Space recently conducted a flight test campaign on the prototype of the A400M Roll-on/Roll-off (RORO) fire extinguishing kit, which dropped 20,000 liters of retardant and created high concentration lines of more than 400 m above ground. The flight test campaign was carried out over a two-week period in southwestern and central Spain, including six launches, three of which used red retardant and three that used water.
This RORO kit does not require any modifications to the aircraft and can be used on any aircraft in the A400M fleet.. Water is stored in a fixed cargo tank and stored in two separate doors. These gates are connected to two flood pipes, so when the flush is activated, the water is expelled through two sections at the end of the ramp. The current prototype design can emit up to 20,000 liters in a single flush, which is impressive.
Besides, The tanks can be filled in less than 10 minutes using a standard shore-based high-pressure pump. The aircraft is also able to take off and land on short, unpaved runways, which is a unique feature. It can also operate from a wide range of air bases and airfields.
During the campaign, the 43rd Fire Fighting Squadron of the Spanish Air Force participated as a technical advisor, ensuring that this capability of the A400M has operational value for any potential operator.
In July 2022, Airbus tested a removable firefighting demonstrator kit on the A400M for the first time. The company concluded that the A400M firefighting kit offers additional capabilities not available on the market thanks to its high discharge capacity, high maneuverability with the latest safety standards, day and night operation, and the possibility of changing or any regular A400M in any firefighting fleet. plane at very short notice.
The introduction of this RORO solution allows rapid reaction to unexpected fires and reconfiguration of the aircraft in any of its other roles. The A400M has low-altitude flight capabilities and can maneuver at low speeds, making it ideal for accurately dropping water loads at very low altitudes, as low as 150 feet.