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Four U.S. Waterbombing Firefighting Planes Are Arriving To Battle Bushfires

Bushfire fighting efforts will be bolstered by the imminent arrival of a new fleet of waterbombing planes from the United States.

One of the Large Airtankers (LATs) has just landed in Australia, with three more due to touch down in coming days. The planes -- two Erickson Aero MD 87s and two McDonnell Douglas DC-10s -- will initially be based in Canberra, Sydney, Adelaide and Perth, and will be leased for a minimum of 50 days.

The larger DC-10 craft has capacity for 35,600 litres of firefighting material, while the smaller and faster MD 87s can carry 11,350 litres of fire retardant.

A NSW RFS plane drops fire retardent on an out of control bushfire near Taree in November. Image: AAP

The National Aerial Firefighting Centre (NAFC) said it already has contracted more than 150 firefighting aircraft this season, with seven LATs already in operation.

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"We welcome and thank the federal government for their funding contributions to NAFC, which has enabled the procurement of these additional airtankers in support of the states and territories and increases the Large Airtanker fleet in Australia to 11," said Stuart Ellis, Chief Executive Officer of Australasian Fire and Emergency Service Authorities Council (AFAC).

"These aircraft have the capability to deploy across Australia, providing infrastructure protection and laying retardant lines to limit the spread of the fires. They are a truly national capability."

A water bombing plane battles a bushfire at Harrington in November. Image: AAP

Waterbombing aircraft have been a welcome and spectacular sight in Australian skies in recent months, dropping huge loads of water and fire retardant chemicals to battle blazes across the country.

"The additional Large Airtankers will provide very welcome assistance to our firefighters on the ground," said Richard Alder, General Manager of the NAFC.

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AFAC said 500 aircraft are available for aerial firefighting, with busy fire days seeing more than 250 in operation.

The arrival of the American planes is the latest part of the international assistance effort responding to the bushfire crisis. Firefighters and equipment from many nations, including the U.S. and Canada, have been on the ground for some time, helping local responders battle blazes.