Turkey mulls buying firefighter planes from Russia
Serkan Demirtaş - ANKARA
A senior Turkish official is due to travel to Russia on Sept. 9 to examine Russian Beriev BE-200 firefighter planes and start official talks on the potential purchase of these aircraft if they meet Turkish conditions.
“I am going to Russia on Monday to look into Russian firefighters planes. I will personally test the aircraft,” Agriculture and Forestry Minister Bekir Pakdemirli told Hürriyet Daily News on a visit to Demirören Media Center in Ankara on Sept. 6.
Pakdemirli said he has had an aviation badge since 1990 and regularly aviates.
The idea to purchase Russian firefighter planes came after President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan attended the MAKS-2019 aviation fair held in Russia late August where the Beriev BE-200 planes were introduced to him. Erdoğan later instructed Pakdemirli to study the possibility of purchasing these planes.
“During the visit we will test the plane and will discuss its cost and technicalities. We may buy these planes only after these details are clarified and we come to a conclusion that they can meet our needs,” the minister said.
The Beriev Be-200 multiple-purpose aircraft are able to stop and restrain the spread of big forest fires by developing the protecting strip due to multiple drops on the fire edge and to deliver fire brigades and fire extinguishing equipment to the fire region. It can carry 12,000 tons of water.
Turkey has fought a lot of forest fires this summer, with two big fires in İzmir and Bodrum in the western coast triggering discussions about Turkey’s capacity to fight massive forest fires.
The government has long been in a cooperation with the Turkish Aeronautical Association by hiring a fleet of firefighter planes that the association possesses. However, a contract with the association wasn’t renewed this year because the government had found THK aircraft no longer capable to fight fires. Pakdemirli reiterated that among all the planes the THK has, only two of them were able to fly and that’s why they have chosen not to sign a contract with the body.
“Instead, we are using helicopters. We have increased the number of choppers fighting fires from 24 to 30,” Pakdemirli said. “But that does not mean that we won’t need firefighter aircraft. That’s why I am going to Russia.”
He also said that Turkey ranks among top countries that fight forest fires efficiently. “We used our unmanned aerial vehicles for the first time this year to help our fire brigades in spotting where the intervention should start in the fire region,” he said.