Global SuperTanker Contract with State of Colorado FAQ

Aerial Resources for Fighting Wildfires in Colorado
Contact: DFPC Public Information Officer Caley Fisher: 720-391-1565,

Q: How is Colorado using airplanes/aerial resources to help fight wildfires?

A: All of the Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control’s (DFPC) Exclusive Use contracted aircraft fleet and aircrews are committed to fighting Colorado fires. This includes:

  • 2 helicopters
  • 2 Single Engine Air Tankers (SEATs)
  • 2 Pilatus PC-12 Multi Mission Aircraft (MMA) equipped with multiple cameras, including infrared.

Additionally, Colorado has requested and received additional local, regional and national aerial resources through the Rocky Mountain Area Coordination Center. Peterson Air Force base has activated two C-130 Hercules Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System (MAFFS) planes, Buckley Air Force Base has provided two Colorado Army National Guard Blackhawks with buckets and the High Altitude Army National Guard Training Site (HAATS)  in Eagle CO, is on standby with a Hoist Capable Blackhawk as well to help support wildfires.


Q: What about the Global Supertanker? Is Colorado using that resource?

In order to expand and complement our current aerial firefighting fleet, DFPC has signed a Call-When-Needed (CWN) contract with Global Supertanker. Currently Colorado, Oregon and California are the only states able to utilize the Global Supertanker. 

As of July 9, 2018, the Global Supertanker has met all Federal Forest Service requirements to make it possible to use it on current Colorado wildfires on State and National Forest Lands.  Additionally, a Co-op Agreement with the Department of Interior still must be in place for the aircraft to drop on all lands in Colorado or other states. Federal firefighting agencies do not currently have a contract with the Global Supertanker but are currently soliciting for a Basic Ordering Agreement (BOA).

The Global Supertanker requires a Lead Plane for safety purposes on all drops, and those tactical aircraft are only available through federal agencies (or a few states like Alaska or CalFire). Colorado is dependent upon federal agencies to provide the Lead Plane platform and personnel.

The Global Supertanker is available to the citizens of Colorado via a CWN contract for the next five years. All DFPC’s Exclusive Use contracted firefighting aircraft are federally approved for use on all federal public lands.


Q: Why isn’t the Global Supertanker being used in Colorado yet?

Cal Fire in California has activated their contract with the Global Supertanker and the Global Supertanker is unavailable to the State of Colorado until they are released from the California contract.

Additionally, it is important to note that incident commanders, when aircraft are available select and use the most appropriate aircraft for each wildfire response. Selecting the appropriate resource for the fire environment is critical to firefighting efficiency and aerial firefighting success.  Aircraft performance factors include take-off distance, fuel burn rate, fuel duration and engine performance. Aerial firefighting effectiveness also depends on fuel type and terrain of the fire environment.

While the Supertanker’s massive drop capability may be the best resource for some fires, other firefighting aircraft may be more appropriate for remote fires in more complex terrain or in higher-elevationor hotter-temperature settings. In such cases smaller, more maneuverable aircraft (such as helicopters or SEATs) are safer and more effective. As with all aircraft, the Global Supertanker aircraft performance is affected by temperature and elevation. The higher and hotter the conditions, the more power is required -- which can translate to decreased available payload or less fuel duration.


Q: Why is Federal approval required for aircraft fighting wildfires in Colorado?

Land ownership in the State of Colorado is a checkerboard of private, state and federal lands.  Most fires in Colorado encompass multiple jurisdictions, and fire response comes from multiple agencies.

Local, state and federal firefighting agencies work together under interagency standards to ensure common best practices and communication between all firefighting agencies and personnel. This allows for an efficient and unified fire response.

Federal approval of aircraft and pilots is required for any firefighting aircraft operating over federal lands or working with federal personnel. Federal aircraft approval consists of rigorous pilot and aircraft airworthiness inspections.  Aircraft inspections are conducted by a federal aircraft mechanic and include avionics, flight control systems, and maintenance schedules, aircraft components and company/Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) standards.


Q: What is the Global Supertanker?

The Global Supertanker is a Boeing 747 aerial firefighter that can carry 19,200 gallons of water, water enhancers or fire retardant, fed by a pressurized drop system. The aircraft is owned and operated by Global SuperTanker Services LLC out of Colorado Springs.