Australia’s Department of Defence is making a big push to develop a new weapon that would protect firefighters from bullets and other projectiles in the event of an emergency.
The department is proposing a new, bulletproof, ballistic shield for fire fighters.
Firefighter protection is crucial in Australia, which has been hit hard by the wildfires that have engulfed more than 80 per cent of the country in recent weeks.
The latest fires have killed more than 1,400 people, destroyed more than 10,000 homes and damaged or destroyed more and more homes.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics says the country has lost more than 11,000 firefighters and has lost almost 8,000 buildings.
Firefighters have been battling blazes in parts of the north of the state, with heavy smoke plumes from the fires reaching high altitudes.
The Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet’s proposal to protect firefighters in the face of gunfire would be a “game changer” for firefighting, according to a spokesperson.
“The concept of the bulletproof fire fighter is something we are really keen to get rolling,” the spokesperson said.
“It is about giving people a real reason to stay in the line of fire, to remain on the line, and to be able to protect themselves from the threats they face.”
The new weapon would have a “large bore” bulletproofing material which would be designed to deflect bullets, and would be made of “bulletproof material with a high ballistic coefficient”.
The Department said it was currently working with an ammunition manufacturer to develop the material.
“We are developing a bulletproof ballistic shield to be deployed by the Australian Defence Force in the case of an incident involving an emergency,” the department said.
Fire fighters have been trained to use a “specially designed, ballistic vest”, and would have the ability to use “bullets, pellets, blanks, shrapnel, etc” to protect them from bullets.
“A bulletproof vest would be similar to the one worn by fire fighters in Australia’s World War II and the early days of the Vietnam War,” the spokesman said.
But the defence department’s proposal is controversial in Australia and there is currently a national debate about the best way to protect the country’s firefighters.
“Our firefighters are very proud of their work and we would not want them to be subject to the dangers of an armed attack,” Mr Kelly said.
“They are trained to go out and do their jobs, to protect people, to save lives, and they would be protected by the military.”
The Department is also looking to develop new technology to protect personnel from “soft” or non-lethal projectiles, including bullets, blobs and shrapnel.
“This technology can be used in situations where we know the attacker may not be going to fire directly at our firefighters,” the statement said.
The Defence Department said that while the technology was not yet in development, it was “actively considering a number of different options” to address the protection of firefighters.
Fire fighter shields are already being used in the US, and have been used in Australia since the 1970s.
The US Army is currently developing a ballistic shield that can protect fire fighter crews in the events of a natural disaster.
This is the latest in a series of controversial proposals that have been made by the Defence Department over the last two years.
The Department has been considering options for a bullet proof vest for more than 20 years, but the proposal is the first time it has actually put forward a new concept.