Russian water bombers put out forest fires abroad while Russia’s forests are ablaze
Viktor Kobzev is a director general of the Beriyev aviation scientific and technical complex in the city of Taganrog. The plant is planning to launch mass manufacture of Be-200, a unique firefighting amphibian aircraft, a water bomber. Viktor Kobzev says the plans for the near future primarily concern foreign customers. So far the plant has manufactured two Be-200s. The plant could not build any more of them due to lack of funds. For the last few years, the plant has been actively searching for large customers at the West as the first two Russian-made amphibian planes showed off their unique capabilities to European customers.
Under the new contracts, one Be-200 will be soon delivered to Portugal for two-month firefighting operations. The other plane will be used in Italy. Experts estimate that the expert potential of Be-200 is 50 planes. Therefore, the intention of the plant’s management to launch an effective campaign for the promotion of the plane in Europe is perfectly understood. However, it is hard not to ask the question: Is it a really a state-oriented attitude to lease the unique aircraft to foreigners while thousands of hectares of Russian forests are on fire each year?
The report for the last week says 225 forest fires were raging in Russia. A total area of the fires exceeded 300,000 km. At the moment experts are still working on figures relating to damage to be done to Russian forestry and economy in 2006. No doubt about it, the figures will be astronomical. The number of fires is already three times higher than that for the last year. The area through which fire swept through has increased by more than 6 times.
The Be-200 is capable of taking aboard up to 12 tons of water at a time. The plane can draw water from any relatively large body of water. The flying firefighter does even need to land for replenishing the water supply. The plane can fill the water tanks while skimming along the surface of the water. In other words, it is simply irreplaceable for localities that are hard to get to.
The Be-200 will undoubtedly do a fine job putting fires in the Khabarovsk region where forests are mostly burning in the mountain areas. The taiga in the Chita region is in flames.
It is understood that a product will not sell without a good promotional campaign. But Be-200 already got plenty of advertising several years ago, it became pretty well-known to potential customers at the West. The plane was demonstrated to the French government back in 2003. Last year the French placed an order for 5-7 planes. The Italians leased Be-200s for two years in a row. They witnessed the plane’s excellent performance. Would it be a more rational decision to use the planes for saving our own forests at least this year?
Translated by Guerman Grachev
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