Balkan countries with an impressive Fleet

One year ago, the Macedonian Air Force joined in the efforts to extinguish the devastating fire that broke out in the early hours of September 30, 2009 in the famous Macedonian Orthodox Church monastery complex St. Jovan Bigorski located in the western part of the Republic of Macedonia.
Answering appeals for aerial firefighting assistance, the air force promptly activated two transport helicopter squadron Mi-8/17 helicopters stationed at Petrovec Air Force base near Skopje. Equipped with Bambi Bucket firefighting systems, the two helicopters helped in localizing and extinguishing the wildfire that threatened the monastery complex.
Today, the plan for providing Macedonia’s Protection and Rescue Directorate with aerial firefighting capabilities has been completed giving the small Balkan country a strategic and above all, dedicated aerial fire-fighting asset.
The international tender for procurement of firefighting aircraft was finalized on March 4, 2009 when Protection and Rescue Directorate signed a contract with the Spanish company Air Tractor Europe S.L. for the acquisition of three US-produced Air Tractor AT-802A Fire Boss single-seat amphibious firefighting aircraft. Under a $10.3 million USD contract, all three planes, together with training, accompanying equipment, special tools and spare parts were delivered to the Republic of Macedonia.
The intensive wildfires that rage across the Balkan Peninsula every summer have prompted some countries of the European region to invest in renewing and expanding their existing aerial firefighting capacities. If one doesn’t exist, a dedicated firefighting fleet will be developed.
While Greece remains the leading Balkan aerial firefighting power with a combined fleet of some 12 piston-engine CL-215s, nine CL-415 turboprops and some 20 M-18 Dromaders, all of them operational within the Hellenic Air Force, the Republic of Croatia follows with its air force fleet of six Air Tractor AT-802s and six CL-415s.
The last addition to Croatian fleet was a brand new CL-415 that was delivered in February 2010. On the other side, Montenegro, like Macedonia, opted to join the “club” by establishing its own fleet with three amphibious Air Tractor AT-802A Fire Boss planes.
The small Balkan country already took delivery of two AT-802As in June 2009 and a third is expected to follow. With Macedonia’s AT-802As in place by the summer of 2010, the joint firefighting fleet of Balkan countries of Greece, Croatia, Montenegro and Macedonia was made of some 60 specialized firefighting planes.
This impressive fleet will most likely continue to grow in size and capability in the future if interests of Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia and Bulgaria for equipping themselves with AT-802 turboprops transforms into further orders for the highly effective fire-bomber.

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