Bombers for Fire War and Considerations on the ...

(To Andrea Troncone)

The 2017 seems a year designed not to give Italy a respite in terms of fire. Last summer, our country has been in focus much more than in recent years, and in the past two weeks we have revisited those scenes in Piedmont newsletters.

For the problem of fires it seems in fact that every time there is no solution and the evacuations of population centers and public facilities of which we are given news seem an admission of impotence.

Yet the intervention device is seriously organized: over the past two weeks in Piedmont (in addition to all possible surface areas), well-known 14 aircraft have been used between helicopters and airplanes.

Of these, well 5 Canadair CL-4151 of which two Croats (for which it is legitimate to assume that you will then have to provide a quantifiable repayment in at least 20.000 € per hour flown and for aircraft ...)

This opportunity brings us to an analysis of the characteristics of fixed-wing aircraft usable in the warfare, in order to see if and how it is possible to enhance the airspace component by streamlining the taxpayer's investments.

Deductive a premise: the Army, Military Air Force and the Carabinieri Forestry Corps have powerful means such as CH-47, C130 and S-64 "Skycrane", but with the exception of the latter it is a means that while great contribution, they are not specific warfare aircraft. So, as soon as a C-130 or a CH-47 exhausts its extinguishing load, it must return to the base to be refilled, leaving the front of the fire. Most often, this technical need is solved by the replacement of a twin aircraft, but in this way the costs of the intervention go up and down a force of resources that should remain available for any other needs. That is why they try to use them as little as possible and rely on firefighting specialists. This, in the collective imagination, means unequivocally "Canadair".

We also want to point out that for some years, even in Italy, the Air Tractor AT-802 "Fire Boss" aircraft, not yet known as the "Canadair" and unfortunately a bit ridiculed because of the cartoon "Planes 2 "of Disney Pixar, whose protagonist (" Dasty ") is just one of these airplanes. It is good to know that these aircraft have no minority at all: they can fly at speeds higher than those of helicopters and with a significantly lower fuel consumption while carrying an extinguishing load equal to half that of the "Canadair" (or, if you prefer, many times higher than those of "Ecureil" or "Alouette" helicopters).

Remaining the role of the "Fire Boss" must be limited to the shutdown of the outbreaks (as it is written in the same aircraft brochure) or to provide the first intervention awaiting the "Canadair", or even to support the latter, who when they intervene become the protagonists of the scene. On forest fires already formed and extended, certain "morphological" limitations of the "Fire Boss" consistently reduce operational effectiveness. More than all the presence of huge floats, which, on the one hand, allows water to be supplied by water by means of "scooping" (racing on high speed water), limiting and complicating the driving in water as well as in windswept track to subtract part of the driving power.

The "Canadair" has been entrusted for decades (also considering its predecessor with CL-215 pistons) the backbone of fire protection in Italy. But here (more precisely in Sardinia) also worked for the summer season 2004-2005 the Beriev Be-200 "Altair", and it would also have been bought in a couple of specimens if in the meantime did not fall the government.

If we were to compare the three aircraft mentioned, then just look at their appearance as a profane one to convince them that there are two totally different settings: to turn an aircraft airplane into a firefighter (this is the case for the Fire Boss) and that is to have a specifically designed fire extinguisher (CL-415 and Be-200), possibly usable for other tasks.

From this point of view, it is understood that by deepening the analysis there will be some reasons to exclude from the comparison the aircraft not specifically designed for firefighting and focus on the other two, highlighting the differences. For most technicians, queue to the article (in the downloadable pdf version) there are some tabs that explain what is said and will clarify what the points of possible interchangeability between the aircraft may be.

Surely the curiosity also leads the profane to drop the eye at the cost of one or the other, but it would be more important to fall on the relationship between the extinguishing capabilities of these means with respect to their practicality as well as their requirements (such as "scooping" and maneuvering spaces with respect to their size and performance).

Essentially, it can be said right now that CL-415 and BE-200 are in relation to each other a bit like the C-27J with the C-130J: they are similar for purposes, complementary to operational characteristics, different in size and performance, interchangeable in some mission profiles.

The CL-415 is a specialist in "local work" on fires, while the Beriev BE-200 is best suited for massive firefighting that has become unmanageable or for use on distant fronts, or for rapid risers distance.

The origin of this difference must be sought in the project.

CL-415 is born specifically for the need to be a "firefighter". Dimensions not too big give it a great agility, while turbocharged engines allow an immediate response to engine controls and a positive interaction with the wing due to propeller flow. The result is a top-notch performance even in tight areas of operation and very low odds. However, it has a very low cruising speed, essential equipment, motors that are suitable for use in particularly warm climates and maintenance is not quite easy. The non-pressurized cabin and the lack of icebreaker on the wing surfaces can cause remote repositioning problems, which are also time-consuming and fuel-efficient (as well as the manpower of the crew and the maintenance needs).

The Beriev Be-200 is also a specific product for firefighting, but shares with the CL-415 only three construction details: the being a twin-engine amphibious aircraft with a central hull that solves all the problems of piloting the "Fire Boss "; have exceptional maneuverability (which in this case allows things that are truly unimaginable for an aircraft of that size and architecture); being equipped with multiple release doors selectable in sequence. For everything else, it's exactly the opposite of the CL-415.

It is born of the design heritage of a military convention aircraft: the Beriev A-40 / A-42 "Albatros", which was designed more for support missions for oceanic and postwar nuclear submarines, than for declared civil protection tasks . The resulting architecture (large load capacity with a wide choice of possible reconfigurable configurations in a short time, high speed and range of action), however, allows it to be used for a whole series of special civil protection operations that add to the fire role. Among the main: MEDEVAC operations2 and / or transport of various kinds in areas without an airport located in marine or lake areas (small islands, for example), search and rescue shipwrecked. All things of which in Italy (indeed, in the Mediterranean that sees Italy at the geopolitical center of the same) is more and more frequently needed.

In Beriev's home there was already another amphibious, many aspects similar to CL-415: the BE-12 "Mail". But the very fact that its manufacturer has decided to push further, shows that something else could still be done.

BE-200's capacity demonstrations have already taken place everywhere in the world: from California to Australia, passing through Greece and Sardinia, all the most indomitable fires we have witnessed in the last 10 years have been extinguished only thanks to ' intervention of Russian BE-200. Indonesia then also used it as firefighting for flight research Indonesia AirAsia 8501 disappeared in the land of Java.

Among the differences with the "Canadair", there is greatness and completely reconfigurable depending on the task to be played.

There is a passenger version (Be-210) that can carry 72 people with comfort from the airplane, but we just mention it for reporting because it would lose the fire-fighting capacity in that case. But the same was already happening for the only "Canadair" built in passenger configuration. The Venezuelan mining company Ferrominera de Orinoco, it purchased one for its own needs, but passengers carried only 26 and under bad conditions, without pressure or air conditioning.

For the BE-200 "firefighter", on the other hand, there is the possibility of transforming itself without losing its firefighting capabilities, as unlike the "Canadair" the necessary systems and tanks are housed under the floor of the fuselage, inside the keel or in any case without subtracting the load volume. to the fuselage. In this way, a MEDEVAC configuration can be prepared if required2, in which it can carry rid of 30 in addition to healthcare staff.

Or you can set up the SAR configuration3, which allows you to carry 50 shipwrecks, in addition to cannons and emergency equipment.

But we come back from what we started off: fire-fighting.

The BE-200 can fire on the fire an extinguishing amount exactly twice the CL-415 (well 12000 liters against the already many 6000) and thanks to surprising maneuvering capabilities at unusually low speeds, can also intervene in theaters reserved for "Canadair" . Certainly not in the narrowest, but in many others yes.

The BE-200 is then free of climatic limitations (anti-ice for wings, as well as indifference of the engines at higher temperatures) and facilitates maintenance operations to the maximum. Fly at twice the speed of the CL-415 and with commands fly-by wire4, glass cockpit5, the pressurized cabin allows the full exploitation of all its various operational capabilities and throughout its wide range of action, without putting the crew under extra charge.

Speaking of advanced instrumentation, the most notable note is the FLIR6, which, combined with the radar, extends the operating range and above all makes it much safer for its focus on the front of the fire. The CL-415 only has it in its "MP" ("Maritim Patrol" version, for coastal, non-fire) use. For "Par condicio", it is fair to point out that the "Fire Boss" can be converted into an airplane for shedding of anti-crucibles and fertilizers, although the transformation work is remarkable.

And that of safety is not a negligible problem, as expensive CL-415 and S-64 are always too low, and always because of the extreme operating and environmental conditions they are called to operate. Reducing the number of releases of equal quantities of extinguished extinguishers, in addition to benefiting from a better instrumental endowment, is already a major, important form of risk reduction.

Concluding the comparison with some economic considerations, the BE-200 can do something that the CL-415 can not do: recovering part of the high investment (not knowing its exact cost but already the CL-415 has a $ 37 $ exemplary exemplary price for a so constructively simple aircraft) using it in all civil protection scenarios where it can be used, instead of just one such as in the case of CL-415.

From all these considerations, a question arises spontaneously: would it not be worth it for someone to start thinking about coping with the old idea of ​​having a couple of Beriev BE-200?

If this were to happen, Italy would win an unprecedented and important European primacy of excellence in civil defense and would be able to "export help" instead of "import it"!

It is a primacy that could also be used to cover another old discourse: that of a possible industrial collaboration between the manufacturer and our aerospace industry, as already done for the Leonardo-Sukhoi "Superjet 100".

It is true that the example of Leonardo-Sukhoi "Superjet 100" is certainly not the happiest7, but an old study by the construction company estimated there was a potential sale of 320 aircraft in 20 years. And ten years after his arrival on the scene, Beriev BE-200 has only been sold for twenty.

The last 4 specimens were purchased in China this year in June and we know that the Chinese are very good and quick to replicate the good ideas seen elsewhere. What if we did not miss a good opportunity ... An 320 aircraft market is not exactly immense, but it is still greater than what the AW 10 "civilian convertible" has been expecting for at least 609 years, which still requires changes and development costs to avoid other accidents, while the BE-200 is already ready for use and is an aircraft that does not try to fit into an already saturated sector of alternatives because it has no "competitor"!

To study the costs of this machine, there are no official data but once again some of the old data found in the press releases may be of assistance. In October 2006, two Be-200ES were hired by Indonesia for 45 days for a fire campaign at about $ 5.2 million US $. This prompted the Indonesian Government to consider a purchase option (then unconfirmed) for as many aircraft of the same type, at a unit cost of US $ 40. They will not be updated, but they are still very indicative and lead to reflections.

In any case, and beyond any projection towards visionary scenarios and long-term hypotheses, but looking at the news that leads to the necessity of dealing with urgencies, there is a number of months to do something for to organize ourselves the best before the next summer will put us in trouble again.

Those same months coincide with the election campaign for the upcoming political elections and with a winter that will hardly lead to other fires such as those in Piedmont in the past few weeks and the rest of Italy last summer, but we hope to have given a good idea to someone to start working, to have a problem less by the next summer season.

Someone may think that this article is one of those Italian payroll products of someone, but that is not the case. It is a technical analysis that we can afford from competent people and taxpayers, because we would like to see our money spent on something more useful for the nation than a certain Pharaonic A340-500 ...!

NEW: click here for further details (complete!) In pdf



1 From the first half of the 2016 the Bombardier sold the rights to the CL-415 to the Viking Aerospace, despite the fact that the production left by Canadair has not yet restarted. For convenience, calling it "Canadair" or "CL-415" we will always refer to the same aircraft

2 MEDEVAC = MEDical EVACuation

3 SAR = (Search And Rescue) search and rescue1 Since the first half of 2016, Bombardier has sold the rights to the CL-415 to Viking Aerospace, despite the fact that production left by Canadair has not yet restarted. For convenience, by calling it "Canadair" or "CL-415" we will always refer to the same aircraft

4 fly-by wire: servocomputerized flight controls, without mechanical connection with cloche or control levers

5 glass cockpit: on-board instrumentation entirely for projection on interchangeable screens, without specific electromechanical individual instruments

6 FLIR: Forward-looking-Infra-Red. Infrared surveillance system that allows the crew to see through the smoke the actual smokers and fires as well as the direction of the fire spread

7 Leonardo sold the 41% of its stake in SuperJet International (SJI), the joint venture with the Russian Sukhoi Civil Aircraft, to the symbolic one-euro amount (source:

(photo: web / BERIEV Aircraft Company)