The Israeli government is planning to establish a national aerial firefighting unit by the middle of the year. Its strategy is a result of the devastating forest fires in northern Israel in December, when the ill-equipped government was forced to enlist the help of the international community to supply a range of firefighting aircraft.
The blaze was contained in the mountainous region near Haifa, so it could not be fought from the ground. Israel's Turbo Thrush agricultural spraying aircraft that dispensed water and fire retardant was not adequate for the task.
Within 48h, the international firefighting fleet over the area included a Beriev Be-200 and Ilyushin Il-76 and a Bombardier 215 and 415 supplied by Greece and Turkey. The Evergreen Boeing-747-200 "Super Tanker" was later deployed by Israel.
The country is now planning to form a national firefighting fleet, with a number of options under discussion. These include forming a civil squadron that will be operated by a private company, establishing a regional firefighting squadron that could include neighbouring countries such as Egypt and Jordan, or appointing the Israeli air force to procure and operate the unit.
The air force allocated Elbit Hermes 450 unmanned air vehicles to the firefighting mission last month.