ISRAEL’S ELBIT Systems announced on January 5 that it has been awarded an approximately $100 million contract from the Israeli Ministry of Defense (IMOD) to procure six new firefighting aircraft and operate the Israeli Air Force firefighting squadron, which will consist of a total of 14 aircraft, including eight aircraft previously procured by Elbit Systems. he contract, to be performed over an eight-year period, also covers flight hours, infrastructure upgrade, maintenance, airstrip operation, handling of fire retardants and other aspects of operating the squadron.
The firefighting aircraft, manufactured by Air Tractor, are single-engine AT-802F aircraft, capable of carrying approximately 3,000 litres of water and flying three hours without refueling. Bezhalel (Butzi) Machlis, President and CEO of Elbit Systems commented: “We are very proud to be selected for this opportunity to harness our professional capabilities and vast experience to the collective efforts of protecting Israel’s residents and natural landscape”.
The Elad firefighting squadron was founded four years ago following the Mount Carmel forest fire and is named after Elad Riben, the fire scout that was killed in this fire. Since then, Elbit Systems has been co-operating with the IAF, firefighting units, the Jewish National Fund and the Israel Nature and Parks Authority in developing the squadron’s operational procedures and qualifying designated airstrips. The aircraft will be flown by CHIM-NIR’s pilots, the project’s subcontractor.
Since its inauguration in 2011, the firefighting squadron has performed over 4,600 missions, accumulated over 2,500 flight hours and has helped extinguish over 500 potentially destructive fires across the country, providing a prompt and professional solution. Alan Warnes