The giant Russian plane Beriev proved to be a decisive weapon in extinguishing flames during the Greek fire season, and its enormous potential will obviously be missed from the arsenal of fire fighting services.
The experience of 2021 has already mobilised the government to seek alternatives for the new fire season.
According to sources, the whole strategy of dealing with the fires will change, given the absence of the Russian Beriev, but also of the Ukrainian aid in personnel and helicopters.
The government intends to increase the budget by 35% for 2022, aiming to multiply the air means with more small and more efficient aircraft, mainly the Air-Tractor type, which will be at least double the six used last year.
Another important change will be the use of retardant fluid for large fires, which is expected to work much more efficiently than simple water drops. This is the well-known red liquid that has been used sporadically in the past by C-130 aircraft.
According to the Ministry of Climate Crisis, the liquid supplied and planned to be used in large fires will be certified and is environmentally friendly. This material is mainly used in France, and it will be dropped mainly by small Air-Tractor aircraft.
A new element of the new firefighting period is the close cooperation of the forest service with the Fire Brigade, so that there is a direct knowledge of the terrain of the area and the peculiarities faced by the ground forces in the field.
Great emphasis will also be placed on strengthening the ground forces, as it has now been realised that whatever air means are available, the final and decisive battle with the fire and its final extinction is achieved by the firefighters.
As part of this new strategic planning, which will be presented on May 17 by the competent ministers and officials, the training of 500 forest personnel has already begun.
These are Special Units of Forest Enterprises in six total parts of the country (Elefsina, Thessaloniki, Heraklion, Lamia, Ioannina and Patras).
This special body will work in the forest together with the foresters throughout the year, and will work mainly on fire prevention.
They will also be the first to arrive at the scene of the fire to intervene in the critical first hours.
The Beriev Be-200 Altair is a utility amphibious aircraft designed and built by the Beriev Aircraft Company. Marketed as being designed for fire fighting, search and rescue, maritime patrol, cargo, and passenger transportation, it has a capacity of 12,000 litres (3,200 US gal) of water, or up to 72 passengers.
The Be-200 in amphibious water drop fire-fighter configuration suppresses fires by dropping water contained in eight ferric aluminium alloy water tanks, located under the cabin floor in the centre fuselage section.
Four retractable water scoops, two forward and two aft of the fuselage step, can be used to scoop a total of 12 tonnes (26,000 lb) of water in 14 seconds. Alternatively, the tanks can be filled from a hydrant or a water cistern on the ground.
The water tanks can be removed quickly for carrying cargo. Water can be dropped in a single salvo, or in up to eight consecutive drops. The aircraft also carries six auxiliary tanks for fire-retarding chemical agents, with a total capacity of 1.2 m3 (320 US gal).
The aircraft can empty its water tanks over the site of a fire in 0.8 to 1.0 seconds when flying above the minimum drop speed of 220 km/h (140 mph; 120 km).
Two Be-200ES also operated in Greece, RF-32768 fighting the 2007 forest fires for the whole season and RF-21512 from August 30 – September 13, 2007.
During the summer of 2021 one aircraft was used in Greece.
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