Chile mulls buying fire-fighting aircraft from Russia

SANTIAGO – Chile’ Air Force is considering Russia-made Beriev (Betair) Be-200 Altair amphibious aircraft to meet its requirement for a fire-fighting platform.

The air force’s interest in the Be-200, able to carry 12 tons of water and fire retardants in internal tanks, was officially confirmed in late July by the air force chief, General Jorge Robles, after returning from an official visit to Russia.

The Beriev Be-200 Altair (Russian: Бериев Бе-200) is a multipurpose amphibious aircraft designed by the Beriev Aircraft Company and manufactured by Irkut. Marketed as being designed for fire fighting, search and rescue, maritime patrol, cargo, and passenger transportation, it has a capacity of 12 tonnes (12,000 litres, 3,170 US gallons) of water, or up to 72 passengers.

Jane’s 360 reports that up to three aircraft could be acquired. They would have a secondary search-and-rescue and community support role in seasons when fire danger is lower, the news portal reported citing military sources.

This year in January, at least 11 people were killed and several thousand left homeless by deadly forest fires in southern and central Chile, which have raged across large sections of the country for nearly two weeks.