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The IL-78 tankers, while designed for aerial refueling, have “waterbombing” capabilities that allow them to provide disaster relief services such as extinguishing wildfires by flying overhead at low altitudes and dispersing water or fire retardant. The company will have a designated number of IL-76 cargo aircraft or IL-78 tankers on contract with federal and state agencies to provide these services with minimum notification.
Hundreds of thousands of acres of forests and grassland are destroyed each year by wildfires and an effective aerial solution has been sought after by US government agencies for years. This aircraft has been used to extinguish one of the largest wildfires in Australia and has been used globally for years in such disaster relief situations.