The US State Department has approved the requested purchase by Kenya of twelve Air Tractor AT- 802L and two AT-504 trainer aircraft under the US Foreign Military Sale program. The estimated cost is 418 million USD.
The proposed sale provides a needed capability in the ongoing efforts to counter Islamic terrorist organisation al-Shabaab, according to the State Departement. Also, the Air Tractor maximizes Kenya’s Close Air Support (CAS) ability because it is a short-field aircraft capable of using precision munitions and cost effective logistics and maintenance. The proposed sale supplements Kenya’s aging F-5 aircraft as it will be more able to be pre-positioned much closer to the conflict area than the F-5 fleet.
The prime contractor will be L-3 Communications in Waco, Texas.
The Croatian Air Force and Air Defence (Hrvatsko Ratno Zrakoplovstvo i Protuzračna Obrana) is very happy with their Air Tractor AT-802 Fire Bosses. By enrolling them into active patrols of fire risky areas they have proven to prevent worse.
An illustration of the effectiveness of the new working method – let the Air Tractors patrol with the heavier Canadair CL-415s on stand-by – presented itself on 3 August 2015. Scouting the area around Omis in the Split-Dalmatia area an Air Tractor pilot located a starting fire, started engaging it and requested immediate reinforcements which came in the form of two Canadairs. Moreover, a Croatian Air Force Mi-8MTV flew additional fire crews into the area.
In order to react faster the Croatians have put a single Canadair on stand-by in Dubrovnik since 22 July 2015, to help fighting fighters in the south of the country.
During the last five days the Air Tractors flew 13 patrol missions, locating nine wild fires. The Croatian Air Force began their own fire-fighting training in December 2014, at the 93. Air Force and Air Defence Base in Zemunik on a single Air Tractor AT-802 Fire Boss two-seater. Before that Spain provided the training.
The Fire Squadron (PPE) of the Croatian Air Force and Air Defence has a total of six Canadair CL-415s and 6 Air Tractor AT-802Fs (5 single-seaters, 1 two-seat).
The Israeli Ministry of Defence is increasing its privatised airborne Elad fire-fighting squadron. Elbit Systems got an order for about 100 million US dollars on 5 January 2015 to procure six additional AirTractor AT-802Fs.
The new aircraft will join the eight earlier provided by Elbit, bringing the squadron to 14 aircraft in total. The contract, to be performed over an eight-year period, also covers flight hours, infrastructure upgrade, maintenance, airstrip operation, handling of fire retardants and other aspects of operating the squadron.
The AT-802Fs are capable of carrying approximately 792 US gallons (3,000 litres) of water and fly about three hours on a fuel tank. The aircraft will be flown by CHIM-NIR’s pilots, the project’s subcontractor.
The Elad firefighting squadron was founded four years ago following the Mount Carmel forest fire and is named after Elad Riben, the fire scout that was killed in this fire. Since its inauguration in 2011, the firefighting squadron has performed over 4,600 missions, accumulated over 2,500 flight hours and has helped extinguish over 500 potentially destructive fires across the country.
For the first time in history Australia uses big airtankers as part of its fire-fighting force. A Coulson C-130Q Hercules and a Conair RJ85AT have been dispatched in the beginning of December to Avalon Airport southwest of Melbourne in Victoria. The state currently combats hard to kill bushfires, as well does neighbouring South Australia at the Sampson Flat just northeast of the outskirts of Adelaide.
Victoria’s Country Fire Authority (CFA) issued yet another emergency warning on 5 January 2015, advising people near Balmoral to move out because of a “fast moving, out of control bushfire travelling in a northerly direction from the Black Range State Forest”. The fire reached the Mt. Talbot Reserve on Monday and the CFA warned that “privae properties could be impacted anytime within the next hour”.
Being used to bushfires during the current Summer season Victoria already had an air fleet of 46 planes and helicopters. The contracted support from Canadian companies Coulson and Conair adds big capacity to that, with the Conair RJ85AT no. 162 being able to drop 3,300 US gallons (12,492 litres) of water or fire retardant at a speed of 120 knots. Fully loaded the Avro is able to shuttle back and forth at a cruise speed of 390 knots. The Coulson Hercules no. 131 can even drop 3,500 gallons (16,000 litres) of stuff onto the fire. Both aircraft debuted on 18 December, fighting the Creightons Creek fire, south of Euroa.
Already in December Victoria pre-positioned some of its choppers. Two Orange Erickson Aircranes were moved to Essendon and Ballarat. The Coulson contracted pair of Sikorsky S61s were moved to Colac and Mansfield.
The South Australia Country Fire Service (CFS) has 14 fixed-wing and four helicopters steadily contracted during the Summer season, but more are possible. Aerotech First Response supplies up to 10 Air Tractor AT-802s. Of the AT-802s six are based at Woodside, two at Port Lincoln and two based at Mt Gambier. They can drop 840 US gallons (3,200 litres) of water or fire retardant at a time. An Erickson Aircrane (Sikorsky S64E) is based in the Adelaide Hills. It can drop 1,980 US gallons (7,500 litres) of fluid.
Moreover the CFS uses several scout and observation planes. Aerotech 1st Response supplies South Australia with Cessna 208B Grand Caravan and two Cessna 182s. Lincoln Air Charter owns a third Cessna 182. Moreover, two Eurocopter AS350 Squirrels, with an Eurocopter EC130 being provided by MAC Helicopter Rescue Service.
The Croatian Air Force began their own fire-fighting training on 10 December 2014, at the 93. Air Force and Air Defence Base in Zemunik. The training is done on the country’s first Air Tractor AT-802 Fire Boss two-seater.
The machine was purchased in November, after Zagreb decided it was time to take the training in its own hands to speed up the training process. Until recently, Croatian Air Force fire-fighter pilots were sent to Spain.
The Fire Squadron (PPE) of the Hrvatsko Ratno Zrakoplovstvo i Protuzračna Obrana (Croatian Air Force and Air Defence) currently has a total of six Canadair CL-415s and 6 Air Tractor AT-802Fs (5 single-seaters, 1 two-seat)