IAF officials say purchasing mini US-developed Supertanker system will solve Israel’s inability to fight huge summer fires as well as fires caused by rockets and incendiary kites from Gaza; Prime Minister’s Office: System doesn’t provide solutions to possible scenarios.
Itamar Eichner|Published: 06.06.18

The recent kite terror from Gaza on the backdrop of the border fence riots has stressed one of Israel’s grave problems—its inability to fight mass fires, as indicated in its biggest fire ever on Haifa’s Carmel Mount in 2010.

Incendiary kites flown from Gaza into Israel during the past weeks have sparked huge fires across the Israeli communities surrounding Gaza, and consumed hundreds of dunams of fields.

The establishment of Elad squadron—the Israel Police squadron which used to belong to the IAF—failed to ameliorate the situation, as it only has 14 small firefighting planes and no 747 Supertanker, the US-developed largest firefighter aircraft in the world.

As it turns out, a solution allowing Israel to obtain several mini Supertanker systems at an affordable cost has existed for a long time, but has not been implemented.

The MAFFS 2 (mini supertanker) is a US-developed self-contained unit system used for aerial firefighting. The system can be installed in four hours on IAF’s transport aircrafts Lockheed C-130 Hercules and Lockheed Martin C-130J Super Hercules.

The IAF likely opposes to purchasing the mini Supertanker as it does not want to assume renewed responsibility for putting out the fires.

The MAFFS 2 can be filled up within 15 minutes and can carry some 12,000-13,000 liters of fire-extinguishing liquid.

The capacity of MAFFS 2 surpasses the combined capacity of the Elad squadron’s four firefighting planes and is sixth of the capacity of the 747 Supertanker.

The MAFFS 2 costs about $ five million—a relatively low cost in comparison to the cost of renting the 747 Supertanker system and transferring it to Israel if necessary.

The Supertanker is currently installed in 20 aircrafts across five countries, including the US.

Former IAF officials say the effectiveness of the Supertanker’s extinguishing liquid capacity is clear. They state using this system can make the difference between an uncontrollable raging fire and a one that is quickly put out.

IAF aircrafts’ ability to fly in the dark is another advantage that has to be taken into consideration.

The MAFFS 2 is meant to be installed in aircrafts the IAF has plenty of. The system has to purchased with American aid money—money Israel is obligated on American equipment and merchandise—rather than money coming from Israel’s budget.

The system can be easily installed and dismantled within an hour. It will be extremely effective against summer fires as well against fires caused by rockets launched at Israel during war.

A source involved in the matter said, “We are stuck without the ability to fight mass fires. (The only thing we can do) is to ask the world for help (in the case of such fires).

“There is a simple and relatively cheap solution that can save lives, but for some reason it is ignored,” the source lamented.

“This system installed in Hercules aircrafts can put out all the fires caused by Gaza’s incendiary kites within half an hour.”

According to a statement issued by the Prime Minister’s Office, “The Public Security Ministry, the IAF and the National Security Council worked together to review the possibility of relying on such system (MAFFS 2). After reviewing the matter, they came to the conclusion the system does not provide solutions to all scenarios Israel is expected to face against.

“This system, as well as other abilities are still being reviewed by the professional elements while clarifying and approving the scenarios to which it is supposed to provide a solution.

“Reviews are expected to end by the end of 2018, and then it will be decided what system is preferable for Israel, considering possible scenarios.”