New fire fighting scooper aircraft to be delivered in next few months

CL 515 Viking Air

Greece is expected to take delivery within the next few months of two out of eight new CL515 firefighting aircraft, whose acquisition is outlined in an agreement signed earlier this month between its Civil Protection Ministry and the European Commission.

The two new aircraft are amphibious Canadair scoopers. Being paid for exclusively with EU funds, they will belong to the RescEU civil protection mechanism but will be based permanently in Greece.

The Commission launched an effort to create a European-wide firefighting fleet in September, in the wake of a summer of devastating wildfires in Greece and other parts of the bloc.

Currently, Greece hasHellenic Air Force, 7 CL415, 11 CL215, 8 CL515 on order

Greece prevention plan, aircraft upgrade plans for 2021

This year, 69 helicopters and aeroplanes operated out of 25 bases throughout Greece, while 36 new amphibious Air-Tractor firefighting aircraft will be leased. Greece has already leased six this year, which will be purchased by 2030 if the program’s budget is approved. The purchase will pay itself off within an estimated 9 years, as the state will not be spending funds on leasing aeroplanes and helicopters annually.

An additional cost to the state was the cleaning away of debris that the Interior Ministry has supplementarily funded, and that remains a problem, they said, as well as a fire risk. “A few days ago we flew over Attica with Mr Hardalias and what we saw terrified us – if all this isn’t removed, we will risk new tragedies,” Chrisochoidis said.

Other measures include a new network of water tanks holding 40,000 litres each at 13 locations in Greece to help areas at a distance from the sea or lakes, and increasing forest patrol units to 820 in 2021 (compared to 764 last year), assisted by the 80 seasonal firefighting units at high-risk areas.

The cleaning-up operation “Dryads” at high-risk areas will remove flammable material in 18 regions of Attica, including Salamina island, and will help open roads for access by firetrucks. This will include plans to block private car access to Schinias beach in Marathonas and cleaning the pine forest on the shore — access by municipal bus is under discussion with the Marathonas mayor.

Three forested areas in Attica – Tatoi, Hymettus and Ippokratios Politia – and another three in the rest of Greece – Seich Sou in Thessaloniki, Ancient Olympia and at the Halkidiki peninsular – will also fall under the program. 

In addition, a heavy-duty Beriev amphibious aircraft is expected to arrive from Russia on Friday. It can carry 12 tons of water or flame retardant, and will be used in difficult situations, they said.