During the night and this morning, four firefighting aircraft from Cyprus and Greece landed in Israel in order to aid the firefighting effort throughout Israel. The Israeli Police’s Aerial Unit is in command of the operation, while the IAF is responsible for controlling the aerial space and together they are operating in order to extinguish the fires and prevent them from spreading

Illy Pe’ery

For three days fires have been raging in different areas throughout Israel, and during the night four firefighting aircraft from Cyprus and Greece landed in Hatzor AFB in order to aid the firefighting effort alongside the forces operating from the ground and the air. Italian & Croatian aircraft are expected to arrive later today. The aerial aid is being coordinated by the IAF along with the Israeli Police’s Aerial Unit.

“The fact they you are here and that you arrived so quickly reflects the deep and true connection between the countries”, said Gilad Erdan, the Minister of Public Security during the joint brief for the aircrews. “I would like to thank you from the bottom of my heart that you arrived immediately in order to assist the citizens of Israel. When Israelis look to the skies today and see Greek and Cypriot aircraft our friendship and relationship will strengthen even further”.

The IAF Participates in the Firefighting Effort

Photography: Mor Tzidon

Everything Can Change
During the briefing the pilots received an extensive explanation about the conditions in the field. The operation’s chain of command and the participants’ order of power were explained to them while focusing on the different zones and the division of the teams. “There is no single center, but many different fires scattered all across the country. Everything can change in minutes”, said Chief Superintendent Gilly, Commander of the Aircraft Division in the Police’s Aerial Unit.

“The situation is very dynamic and changing by the minute, this morning Jerusalem was our main focus and now the main theatre is Haifa”, said Col. Oren, Commander of the Cooperation Unit. “The unit’s personnel are scattered throughout various command posts all over the country, and we are able to understand what the main arena is at any given moment and act accordingly based on the information we receive from the field”.

The IAF Participates in the Firefighting Effort

Photography: Mor Tzidon

Separate Yet Together
Israeli firefighting aircraft operate in certain areas while the foreign aerial firefighting forces focus on different ones. “We will operate in the Jerusalem area and our main mission is the protection of Highway 1”, shared Lt. Col. Eran, the former Commander of the IAF’s Aerial Firefighting Unit who is currently responsible for the foreign firefighting forces. “We operate according to the combat doctrine that everyone is familiar with that we learned through international cooperation, while the control tower synchronizes all of the aircraft”.

Although the Israeli and foreign forces operate in different areas, there is a close cooperation between the sides as each foreign aircraft flown by a foreign pilot is joined by an Israeli aircrew member. “The goal is to simplify the communication with the pilots, and once we have a person that can speak with ATC in Hebrew, performing the mission becomes easier”, explained Maj. A, former Deputy Commander of the Aerial Firefighting Unit.

The IAF Participates in the Firefighting Effort

Photography: Mor Tzidon

Painful Memories
In a week from now, six years will have passed since the Mount Carmel Forest Fire that became the deadliest fire disaster in Israeli history. The memory of the fire that led to the establishment of the Aerial Firefighting Unit that recently became the responsibility of the Israeli Police still echoes among IAF personnel. “The memory is fresh and the conclusion is clear – we are prepared for this mission”, stated the Commander of the IAF’s Cooperation Unit.

In addition, the aerial aid that the IAF provided to Cyprus a few months ago in regard to the fire that raged on the west side of the Island was very educational and strengthened the cooperation between the sides. Among the Cypriot aircrews that landed in Hatzor AFB tonight were pilots who participated in the firefighting effort on the Island, unlike the Israeli aircrews who joined the foreign firefighting aircraft who have never participated in this kind of mission before. “This is a very interesting and different scenario from our standard flights”, testified Capt. Sahar, an IAF “Re’em” (Boeing 707) Pilot. “We may not be flying the planes, but we make sure that they are flying in the right direction. Throughout the flight we maintain communication with the control tower and communicate accurate commands to the aircrew in order to prevent security incidents”.

The IAF Participates in the Firefighting Effort

Photography: Mor Tzidon

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