True Story: China Is Using Artillery And Tanks to Put Out Forest Fires

April 23, 2019 Topic: Security Blog Brand: The Buzz Tags: ChinaForest FiresMilitaryTanksTechnology

True Story: China Is Using Artillery And Tanks to Put Out Forest Fires

Talk about fighting fire with firepower.

Talk about fighting fire with firepower.

China is using artillery and tanks to put out fires.

Chinese arms manufacturer Norinco has modified field artillery to shoot fire-suppressing cannon shells, according to China Daily. The guns are being used to put down forest fires that often erupt in springtime in China.

“Eight long-range fire-extinguishing guns designed and built by the company arrived in Guojiaping village in Changzhi, Shanxi province, at the request of provincial authorities to help quench the fire that had raged on a nearby mountain for several days,” the newspaper said.

“Information from Norinco says the gun has a firing range of 8 kilometers [5 miles], and each of its shells can scatter dry extinguishing agents over about 20 square meters [215 square feet]. The gun features high mobility and accuracy, and is suitable for suppressing big fires.”

Norinco also makes tank-like vehicles into firefighting machines. “With the chassis and armor of a military tank, the vehicles can protect crew members from fire, explosions, building collapses and can cross half-meter-high obstacles or 2-meter-wide [6.6 feet] trenches. They have an automatic spray device and fireproof coating that can prevent scorching heat from spreading inside the vehicles.”

“Using 520-horsepower diesel engines and equipped with hydraulic devices, the tanks can clear obstacles weighing up to 15 metric tons. Their metal tracks allow them to operate on slopes, in rocky terrain and among the debris of collapsed buildings. The water cannon on the vehicles can spray water as far as 65 meters.”

Interestingly, China’s firefighting tanks can also be used for more sinister purposes. “A secondary water gun, which can be fitted if required, can be used to disperse rioters.”

Chinese firefighters seem to appreciate the vehicles. “"A single tank can spray nearly 15 tons of water onto a fire within one minute -- equivalent to the capacity of six fire engines," said one firefighter. “It can operate deep into a fire scene without putting the firefighters' safety at risk. It has good mobility and protection, allowing us to handle dangerous situations such as chemical blasts and toxic leaks."

The Chinese aren’t the first to use tanks to fight fires. Russia has converted a few old T-55 tanks into fire engines, painted bright red. But what was really impressive was the Impulse 2M, built on a T-62 tank chassis and fitted with a revolving multiple rocket launcher turret that fired salvoes of fire-suppressant powder.

America’s NASA space agency used an M113 armored personnel carrier as a rescue vehicle in case Apollo or space shuttle crews needed to evacuate during an emergency. Though the cramped confines of an armored vehicle hardly make for a comfortable ride. “Firefighters have to curl their legs up tight,” describes a 2011 NASA press release.  “Only the driver can see out consistently, looking through four slits facing the pad. The others in the vehicle have to take turns looking through the slits in another hatch, but that means awkwardly trying to kneel or stand in the middle of the rest of the crew.”

Now, NASA uses a surplus military Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles. Originally designed to protect soldiers from IEDs, the MRAP is faster than an M113, an important consideration during a launch pad emergency.

But leave to the Swedes to apply the ultimate in firefighting firepower. As fire raged across a forest in central Sweden, two JAS 39 Gripen fighters dropped a U.S.-made GBU-49 laser-guided smart bomb on the blaze.  The blast reportedly extinguished fires within 300 feet of the impact point.

Michael Peck is a contributing writer for the National Interest. He can be found on Twitter and Facebook.