Ex-Greece defence minister: 'We must ask Russia for help on wildfires'

A former Greek Defence Minister has urged Greece’s government to ask Russia to help extinguish devastating wildfires.

Panos Kamennos said without the Russian Be-200 amphibious aircraft, it is impossible to cope with the blazes burning out of control on the islands of Rhodes and Corfu.

He said: ‘Nothing happens without Beriev. Let’s bow our heads and ask for help. They will give us…’

The giant Russian plane Beriev proved to be an important weapon in extinguishing flames during the Greek fire season.

The Beriev Be-200 Altair is a utility amphibious aircraft designed and built by the Beriev Aircraft Company.

Thousands of tourists have been evacuated from Greece as the dangerous wildfires spread by high winds have hit the country for the last week.

Up to 10,000 British tourists were affected and a number of repatriation flights have brought them back to the UK.

Marketed as being designed for firefighting, search and rescue, maritime patrol, cargo, and passenger transportation, it has a capacity of 12,000 litres (3,200 US gal) of water, or up to 72 passengers.

The Be-200 in amphibious water drop fire-fighter configuration suppresses fires by dropping water contained in eight ferric aluminium alloy water tanks, located under the cabin floor in the centre fuselage section.

Four retractable water scoops, two forward and two aft of the fuselage step, can be used to scoop a total of 12 tonnes (26,000 lb) of water in 14 seconds.

Alternatively, the tanks can be filled from a hydrant or a water cistern on the ground.

The water tanks can be removed quickly for carrying cargo. Water can be dropped in a single salvo, or in up to eight consecutive drops.

The aircraft also carries six auxiliary tanks for fire-retarding chemical agents, with a total capacity of 1.2 m3 (320 US gal).

The aircraft can empty its water tanks over the site of a fire in 0.8 to 1.0 seconds when flying above the minimum drop speed of 220 km/h (140 mph; 120 km).

Two Be-200ES also operated in Greece, RF-32768 fighting the 2007 forest fires for the whole season and RF-21512 from August 30 – September 13, 2007.

During the summer of 2021 one aircraft was used in Greece.

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