Re-purposed Warbirds and Other Classics…

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There’s quite a large number of former military warplanes and civilian airliners that have taken on roles other than what they were designed to do.  A good quantity of piston and turboprop transports, and some bombers too, have recently been retired from air tanker service, with age and deteriorating equipment as main reasons. Here is a quick look at many of these re-purposed warbirds, some no longer airworthy, others still flying and fighting fires.

Aerial Firebombers:

One area where warbirds, especially bombers, maritime patrol and transport aircraft have excelled at, is aerial application of fire retardant and water, to fight fires from above. Former military helicopters and some airframes that were previously  civilian airliners have also stepped into this role.

Grumman S-2 Tracker twins originally were carrier-borne anti-submarine aircraft which now are modified as water/retardant bombers… some have been modified with turboprop engines, replacing radials.

Lockheed P2V Neptune patrol bombers carry larger loads, some of the former P2V-7s had jet engines to augment payloads and performance, and a few tankers used them while operational.

Lockheed PV-1 and PV-2 Harpoons were utilized for a long time, but their age has grounded them over the years.  Some PV-1s were converted into executive transports, like the Howard 500 too.

Douglas Commercial/C-54/DC-4,  C-118/DC-6 and DC-7 transports have been converted into fire bombers, some into aerial sprayers against insects and for seeding projects as well.

Lockheed C-130/L-100 large transports have been adapted with large internal tanks. A few Lockheed P-3 Orions were converted to water bomber status too.

PB-4Ys, the straight-tailed version of the Consolidated B-24 Liberator WWII bomber, served for a long time as water bombers… and were retired shortly after the turn of this century – a fifty-year span!

Former military helicopters, such as the Bell UH-1, Sikorsky H-3 and S-61, and the big Sikorsky CH-54 Tarhe have been adapted into firefighting roles too.

Rockwell OV-10 observation/Forward Air Control aircraft and a few AH-1 Cobra helicopters have been put to use as airborne coordination and marking aircraft.




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