Today, three "Airtractor 802F" planes coming from Spain landed at the Sde Dov Air Force Base.
At the end of December 2010, following Israel's Carmel Forest fire, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced the establishment of a new Firefighting squadron.
Less than three months following the declaration, the IAF appointed Lieutenant Colonel Rami as commander of the firefighting squadron.
"I, as the first commander of the Aerial Firefighting unit", said Lt. Col. Rami at a ceremony marking the reception of the IAF's newest aircrafts "am proud to lead the first planes of the Aerial Firefighting unit".
"This landing signals the beginning of a very significant process for the State of Israel", said Col. L, the base's commander, during the ceremony. "In another three weeks the Aerial Firefighting unit will be established and a significant capability will be added in addition to the existing capabilities. The ability to put out a fire from the air is needed both on a routine basis and during times of emergency."
"This is a very complicated project", says Lt. Col. Rami. "We must work with civilian agencies, we must create appropriate cooperation with everyone, and together, we must build a method for operating. The purpose of the Aerial Firefighting unit is command, preparation, control and monitoring aerial firefighting for the State of Israel. Our role is to operate the aerial firefighting, launch the planes, make sure they get to the right place at the right time and to control them. Additionally, we will assist in training of the Firefighting unit and in building its combat doctrine."
"The Aerial Firefighting unit will significantly improve the firefighting system in Israel and our ability to deal with cases similar to the Carmel fire in the future", said Brigadier General Nimrod Shefer, Air Force Chief of Staff. "I have every hope that the planes will take off for training missions alone and that we will not need them for operational missions."
At first, more consistent training will be held in efforts to practice control theory; while later, training will be held once every one or two weeks. However, the unit probably will not need much training for the many RSM (routine security measures) operations.
Concurrently, the unit will make up the establishment team for a future permanent squadron for developing and flying, so it seems, "Bombardier 415" airplanes.
"It wasn't random that we established the present unit at Sde Dov", explains Lt. Col. Rami. "Here the squadron is also supposed to develop, while we train land-air teams."
Later this month four more ‘Airtractors' will land in Israel, two of which with ‘scoping' (pumping water from the sea or from reservoirs while flying) capabilities. During the month of April, the unit is expected to receive its initial operational certification, which will allow two airplanes to fly for firefighting missions the following day. By the first week of May, all of the squadron's pilots will be qualified to perform missions.