This year for the first time Israel will have access to a squadron of air tankers. They have contracted with two private companies, Elbit Systems and Chim Nir Flight Services, who purchased seven Air Tractor AT 802 single engine air tankers after submitting a joint bid to the Ministry of Defense.
The government of Israel saw the need for air tankers after the disastrous Carmel fire last December which burned for four days, claimed 44 lives, forced the evacuation of nearly 17,000 people and consumed 8,650 acres of land and natural forest.
Israel asked for and received air support help from many nations for the Carmel fire, including the United States which dispatched four MAFFS C-130 air tankers, but they were cancelled while still en route after the fire was controlled. Over 30 firefighting aircraft from Europe and North America responded. Israel also contracted for Evergreen’s 747 Supertanker which made two sorties dropping retardant on the fire.
Two of the seven Air Tractors will be on floats and can scoop water from the Mediterranean or the Kinneret. The Israel Air Force will have operational responsibility for the firefighting squadron.
Here is a video of Air Tractor 802s in Portugal. And in case you wonder about the music, it is “Into the Fire” by Thirteen Senses. If you watch it until the very end, you’ll see that the 802 has reversible props, which surprised me, making it possible for it to back into a parking spot.