Israel — Russian seaplane manufacturer Beriev Aircraft Company sent its latest firefighting plane, the BE-220, to Israel to demonstrate its firefighting capabilities, in an effort to persuade the Israeli government to procure the plane in the aftermath of the Carmel forest fire in December 2010.
G-Force Aerospace Ltd. represents Beriev in Israel. One of G-Force’s directors is Brig.-Gen. (res.) Udi Zohar, a former head of the Israel Airports Authority.
The BE-220 can carry 12 tons of water in eight separate tanks, which can be filled in 17 seconds by pumping water during a low-level sortie over the sea or reservoir. Beriev says that the plan can land on water to evacuate injured people from ships in distress, and also respond to emergencies at offshore oil and gas rigs. The plane can also be adapted for reconnaissance and cargo missions.
In addition to the water tanks in the fuselage, the BE-220 has six tanks for firefighting chemicals, which are mixed with the water. The plane can release the water in one or more passes over a fire at the crew’s discretion.
The BE-220’s crew today demonstrated its ability to rapidly take on water from the Mediterranean near Tel Aviv. Tomorrow, Minister for Homefront Security Matan Vilnai will visit Ben Gurion Airport to meet the crew and Beriev representatives.
The estimated cost of a BE-220 is $40 million. Zohar said that an analysis of Israel’s needs indicates that three or four planes are enough to meet fire scenarios. “One of the great advantages of this firefighting plane is its speed of 700 km/h, which enables it to reach fires fast,” he said.
Zohar added that the BE-220’s high speed also provided a solution in case of high waves at sea, which jeopardizes the filling of the water takes by low-level flights. He said that in these circumstances, the plane’s crew can be directed to other water sources, such as the Kinneret, to fill its tanks.
Zohar said that the BE-220 can only fill its tanks in the Mediterranean if waves do not exceed 1.2 meters in height. Despite, the plane’s advanced systems, it has only limited night operational capability. “If we receive an order, we’ll find a solution by installing suitable technology to enable night operations. Israel has defense companies engaged in this field and the technologies are available,” he added.