RFFS Procedures for Military Aircraft Emergencies

RFFS Procedures for Military Aircraft Emergencies


This article describes the specifics of RFFS procedures when military aircraft are involved. It explains the specifics of military aircraft, the expected assistance from the military as well as the procedures that are to be followed by civil RFFS units.

General Military Aircraft Specifics

All general RFFS procedures apply to military aircraft. In addition, however, there are some specific issues that should be taken into consideration when an accident involves a military aircraft. These include:

  • Weapon systems - which could lead to an increased risk of fire and explosive damage and. potentially, chemical or nuclear pollution.
  • Survival systems and actuation devices - which can be hazardous to ground personnel if triggered inappropriately.
  • Exceptional fuel loads - which could be present in tanker aircraft.

Military Assistance Teams

In addition to general procedures, when an accident involving a military aircraft has occurred, the appropriate (usually the nearest) military installation should be notified. Once notified, the Military authorities will normally dispatch assistance teams which will include some or all of the following personnel, as appropriate:

  • Base fire department personnel
  • Explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) personnel (tasked with disarming, removing and recovery of weapons, parts and residue)
  • Military police
  • Medical personnel
  • Bio-environmental personnel (helps with the management of radioactive materials and decontamination)
  • Mortuary personnel (assists with the recovery and identification of human remains)
  • Information officer (releases information to news media representatives)
  • Accident investigation board (depending on the situation this could be the only investigative body)
  • Legal officer (advises and assists citizens in their claims against the government)
  • Heavy equipment personnel (to remove the wreckage of military aircraft)

Military Aircraft Types and Their Specifics

The military use a variety of aircraft for a wide range of purposes. All military aircraft can potentially have self protection equipment consisting of chaff and/or flare dispensers which can create a threat to RFFS personnel. Other specific threats by aircraft role include:

  • Fighter and attack aircraft (e.g. F-16A-10) - the main hazards are the presence of weapon systems (ammunition, rockets/missiles) and survival systems (e.g. ejection seats);
  • Bomber aircraft (e.g. B-52) - the main hazards are the presence of potentially large quantities of weapons or ammunition (e.g. bombs), fuel and survival systems (e.g. ejection seats);
  • Cargo aircraft (e.g. C-130) - there is nothing specific about the aircraft itself but the cargo may be hazardous (weapons, ammunition, etc.);
  • Tanker aircraft (e.g. BOEING KC-135) - the main hazard is the possibly exceptional fuel load.
  • Utility aircraft - they are similar to general aviation aircraft and pose no specific threats to ground personnel;
  • Special purpose aircraft (e.g. BOEING E-3D Sentry AWACS) - these aircraft carry special equipment for particular purposes; generally they are similar to commercial airliners and pose no specific threats to ground personnel;
  • Helicopters - the main hazard is the potential presence of weapon systems. Cargo helicopters may have dangerous goods on board (e.g. ammunition)

Special Procedures to be Followed by Civil RFFS Personnel

The advice in this section is derived from training materials and is intended to provide general guidance about procedures and factors to be considered by RFFS personnel. It is not intended to supersede local instructions.

  • RFFS personnel should be aware of the fact that the absence of external weapons does not necessarily mean there are no weapons at all. Relevant information about the armament should be obtained from the military.
  • Personnel and apparatus should not be positioned in line with gun ports.
  • Explosive devices should only be dealt with by military EOD personnel
  • When an aircraft is carrying explosives the prime effort must be directed toward accomplishing a quick knockdown of the fire and cooling of the munitions to maintain a survivable environment.
  • Firefighting should not be attempted when weapons are involved unless it is possible to extinguish the fire quickly. Because of the potential of detonation, all firefighters should withdraw at least 600m.
  • Ignition or detonation of high explosive is very unlikely if its temperature can be kept below 150°C
  • Pyrotechnics present at least minor explosive hazard. They burn very hot and may ignite surrounding combustibles. Most pyrotechnics burn rapidly and once ignited they are very difficult to extinguish as they contain their own oxidisers.
  • Ejection systems should be treated with caution by RFFS personnel. Improper opening of a hatch could cause the seat to fire unless it is safetied. Procedures for seat safetying differ from aircraft to aircraft and therefore assistance from trained personnel is recommended.

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