The Russian Emergencies Ministry signed a $330 million contract with the Beriev design bureau for the procurement of eight Be-200 Altair amphibious planes configured for firefighting. The Russian news agency Novosti reports. The Altair is the largest multipurpose amphibious aircraft currently operational. This acquisition comes as a quick reaction to the criticism of Russian authorities failing to contain wildfires raging through western Russia for two months in the summer of 2010.
Forest and peat bog fires raged in European Russia in July-August 2010 killing more than 50 people and destroying thousands of homes and crops in open farmland. The role of aerial firefighting with Be-200 amphibious planes was made clear when Prime Minister Vladimir Putin took part in putting out wildfires in Ryazan Region on board a Be-200. On this flight, the aircraft scooped up water from the nearby Oka River and dumped it on the flames.
The aircraft designed by the Taganrog-based Beriev Aviation Scientific-Technical Complex (TANTK) can be configured for fire fighting missions, search and rescue, maritime patrol, cargo and passenger transportation. In this configuration the Altair can hold 12 tons of water mixed fire retardant agents, dispersing its cargo over wildfires in areas difficult for access by other means of fire fighting.
Beriev is one of the world’s pioneers of amphibious flight. The company introduced its first amphibian aircraft in 1932 and is currently marketing the firefighting version of the BE-200 worldwide. BE-200 firefighters were demonstrated in the USA, and participated in active firefighting campaigns in Spain and Greece.