The Israeli government has selected Elbit Systems as the prime contractor to supply aerial firefighting services for the country.
The decision to establish a national aerial firefighting unit follows the huge forest fire in northern Israel in December that claimed the lives of 45 people. The blaze was contained in the mountainous region of Haifa so it could not be fought from the ground. Israel's Ayres Turbo Thrush agricultural spraying aircraft that dispensed water and fire retardant was not adequate for the task.
The government was forced to seek international assistance and within 48h, 30 firefighting aircraft had joined the mission, including the Ilyushin Il-76 and Beriev Be-200 from Russia and Bombardier 215 and 415 amphibians from Greece and Turkey. The Evergreen Boeing 747-200 Super Tanker was later deployed by Israel.
Elbit and specialised aircraft operator Chimnir have been selected to form a firefighting squadron following a two-month tender process. The companies will acquire seven Air Tractor AT-802F turboprop singles that will be used to supply "round-the-clock" aerial firefighting services throughout the country. The Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-67AG-powered aircraft are scheduled for delivery in April.