After five and a half years of operational activity in the IAF, the Aerial Firefighting Unit will begin operating under the Aerial Police Unit and enter a new era of aerial firefighting. “We are transferring the unit in prime shape to the responsibility of those who will take it to new heights”

Talya Yariv

12,000 firefighting sorties, over 5,800 flight hours, 880 operational missions and 30 million liters of foam and fire retardant. Five and a half years after its establishment, the aerial firefighting unit will begin operating under the command of the Police. “Closing a squadron or unit in the IAF is a sad and unusual event, so it is definitely bittersweet”, admitted Lt. Col. Eran, the former commander of the unit. “We aren’t closing the unit. We established and developed it and we are now transferring the unit in prime shape to the responsibility of those who will take it to new heights”.

Operational Need
Six years ago, Mount Carmel was engulfed by flames for four days in the largest forest fire Israel has ever known. The firefighting efforts and international support brought about the understanding that Israel must establish a response to the operational need for an aerial firefighting force, an understanding which preceded the establishment of the unit in 2011.

Saying Goodbye to the Aerial Firefighting Unit

Photo by: Talya Yariv

A Chronicle Foretold
“From the beginning it was clear that the IAF, thanks to its abilities and experience in establishment of units and squadrons, would establish the unit”, said Lt. Col. Eran. “We always knew that when the day would come, that we would be able to offer a full response to Israel’s aerial firefighting needs, the unit would be transferred to the responsibility of the Ministry of Public Security. And the day has come”.

Saying Goodbye to the Aerial Firefighting Unit

Photo by: Talya Yariv

The Goal: Maintaining and Developing
During the past two years, the Aerial Policing Unit has acquired new helicopters that besides policing mission will have aerial firefighting abilities. The plan is that the aerial firefighting division’s first response will be the “Air Tractors” airplanes, while the helicopters will provide support for smaller fires. 

Saying Goodbye to the Aerial Firefighting Unit

Photo by: Talya Yariv

Reunion
The unit’s transfer and the operational progression in the world of aerial firefighting in Israel are accompanied by a personal story, which connects between its three leaders: Lt. Col. Eran, the exiting Commander of the IAF’s Firefighting Unit, Chief Superintendent Tomer, Commander of the Police’s Aerial Firefighting Unit and Maj. (Res’) Tomer, Chim-Nir Aviation’s head firefighting pilot, all stood on the parade ground in Hazerim AFB and received their flight wings together in July 1996. “Exactly 20 years later, here we all are”, said Lt. Col. Eran. “A trio, in green, orange and blue flight suits, that leads the aerial firefighting unit. The best kind of closure at the best time”.

 

Saying Goodbye to the Aerial Firefighting Unit

Photo by: Firefighting Unit

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