More Aircraft To Keep Australians Safer From Disasters

Department of Home Affairs

​​​​​The Albanese Government will ensure Australia is better prepared for future natural disasters by funding more aircraft to respond to fires, floods and other severe weather events.

Through the 2024-25 Budget, the Government will provide an additional $35 million over the next two years to the National Aerial Firefighting Centre (NAFC), which supports the delivery of national, state and territory aircraft for use by fire and emergency services.

This investment will deliver a broader range of aerial assets, moving from specific firefighting aircraft to a mix of fixed-wing and rotary multi-use assets, significantly strengthening protection for communities as they face a more diverse range of more intense, frequent and concurrent disasters due to the effects of climate change.

Minister for Emergency Management, Murray Watt said the increased funding takes the Albanese Government’s contribution to national aerial capability to approximately $48 million a year.

“States and territories have, and will continue to have, primary responsibility for Australia’s aerial firefighting and rescue capability. But this boost will deliver more assets that will be able to be deployed right across the country, wherever they are needed,” Minister Watt said.

“With this investment, we are not only increasing the number of aircraft available, but also broadening the type of aircraft so they can be used for different activities such as heavy lift, transportation and evacuations and resupply operations.

“This move by the Albanese Government will ensure the fleet can support more Australians across more hazards, as well as international requests for assistance – as we continue to experience overlaps in the higher risk weather season with the northern hemisphere.

“Earlier this year, we saw Australia experience the full gamut of disasters within weeks, with catastrophic fire conditions followed by severe storms in Victoria, cyclones across Northern Australia, and flooding events across the East Coast. We need to ensure that our aerial capability is expanded to ensure we support each community, regardless of the disaster they are facing.

“It also ensures our national fleet can absorb some of the tasks we need to call on the Defence Force to help with, which is in line with our work to ease pressure on the ADF.

“While aerial assets have previously been used for bushfires, this new investment will expand response efforts to other types of disasters like floods and cyclones as well.

“While there’s more consultation to do on what specific types of aircraft will be selected, we would foresee the new additions to the fleet being used for evacuations and food drops, particularly before and after floods.

“This is a fantastic step forward to ensure we are prepared for whatever comes our way in the future, and will be welcome news to disaster-prone communities across the country.”

In addition to this new investment, the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) has been tasked with leading a comprehensive review in support of the very extensive state and territory capability, to ensure we have a sustainable model into the future.

The fleet review and additional funding address the intent of Recommendation 8.1 from the Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements.​

Key Points

  • As at 31 March 2024 the fleet delivered in a long-established partnership between states and territories comprises of 162 aircraft, including:
    • 6 large fixed wing air tankers
    • 15 large rotary wing aircraft
    • 70 medium and small rotary wing aircraft
    • 56 fixed wing firebombers
    • 15 light fixed wing aircraft

This fleet is supplemented by additional state owned and state contracted aircraft hired to meet peak demand across Australia. In total more than 500 aircraft, provided by over 150 operators, are available for firefighting across Australia.

  • With the support of NAFC, state and territory operational Fire Chiefs and Commissioners annually review the composition and requirements of the fleet to be prepared for the high bushfire season.
  • With the exception of the National Large Air Tanker, the Australian Government does not currently determine or influence the composition or type of aircraft leased for the Fleet.
  • States and territories are constantly looking at the most effective way to deliver aerial firefighting services. For the most part, the current model of leasing aircraft through NAFC, rather than purchasing an exclusive fleet, has proven the most cost-effective model chosen. This model supports the international sharing of specialised aerial firefighting capabilities. This will be considered in the review.
  • The annual lease cost of the fleet will reach approximately $125 million in 2023-24, up from $92.1 million 2022-23. State and territory governments co-fund the fleet, as well as fully fund the operational costs of aircraft they use.
  • For m​ore information visit the
    NAFC ​website.

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