Aerial firefighting plane
Aerial firefighting plane Israel news photo: US Air Force

Private companies will supply fire fighting planes to the IDF in the first stage of a stepped up program to fight forest fires. The goal is to prevent a recurrence of last year’s Carmel forest fire disaster that killed 44 people and destroyed thousands of acres of trees.

The Defense Ministry has budgeted $55 million (200 million shekels) for firefighting planes and equipment to be deployed in coordination with the Air Force. Elbit Systems and Chim-Nir Flight Services are bidding together for the tender.

Chim-Nir has suggested an American-made plane that can carry 600 gallons (2,750 liters) of water and fire chemicals for extinguishing fires. The company also has advised that Israel keep 1,000 tons of the liquid in stockpile.

The fire retardants would be stored in several locations in the county to allow immediate use.

The Carmel blaze left Israel helpless because of outdated and sparse aerial fire fighting planes, and the government turned to foreign countries to use their modern planes to help extinguish the inferno.

“We understand the importance and the need to allocate resources to support the military’s ground and aerial fire-fighting departments," Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu recently commented.

The Israel Air Force has created a new position of commander of an aerial firefighting unit that will work with private firms.