Israeli firefighting squadron’s capability will grow

The Israeli Air Force firefighting squadron will be equipped with at least two additional AT-802F Air Tractors in 2013 and the aim is to buy a further four in the coming years.



The firefighting squadron is operated as a joint venture between Elbit Systems, which purchased the aircraft, Chimnir, a private aircraft company operating agricultural spraying aircraft and helicopters, and the IAF, as an operational co-ordinator.



The squadron was established in 2011. The decision to form such a unit was made in the wake of a huge forest fire in Carmel ridge in December 2010 that claimed the lives of 45 people, most of them prison wardens and police officers in a bus and official cars.



The squadron is operated almost daily to fight forest fires. Some of these are believed to be the result of terrorism.



Udi Zohar, president of Chimnir, said on 15 January that the plan is to purchase another two Air Tractors in 2013 and another four later.



Two of the first AT-802Fs were equipped with water-scooping systems, but these proved to be useless in Israel and they were removed.



It seems that now there is a real intention to allow the squadron to function according to the many requirements.



There is a plan to add some helicopters to the unit, but this will wait until the number of fixed-wing aircraft is more adequate.

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