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Posted by portugalpress on July 12, 2018

Very much as airforce chiefs have implored in the past, a report compiled by “an interministerial working group” has concluded that Portugal should buy its own “super water-bomber” Canadair planes - as well as a host of other aerial fire-fighting equipment - if it is to succeed in being able to respond quickly to developing wildfires during the blisteringly hot summer season.

The report was delivered to the ministries of Defence and Internal Administration in March - and there it appears to have sat, unactioned, ever since.

Diário de Notícias writes today that a ministerial source has told reporters, “in a laconic way”, that the document “is under evaluation by the two ministries”.

It was commissioned following the government’s decision to “entrust to the Air Force the centralized command and management of airborne forest firepower by state-owned or other seasonally-needed means."

And it has set out a programme of purchase requirements, starting next year, that its authors believe are necessary to best-protect national territory.

DN’s text implies that precious time is being lost as the report lies gathering dust.

It’s timetable runs to 2022 and it basically urges the State to purchase four Canadair water-bombers, 10 “Fire Boss” amphibian planes, 13 helicopters and six drones.

The first craft are indicated for purchase next year (seven light helicopters and four Fire Boss planes).

2020 would (ideally) see the first two Portuguese-owned Canadair brought onto the scene, six further helicopters, another two Fire Boss and three drones; 2021 would see more Fire Boss and drones with 2022 seeing the final purchase of Canadairs.

But this carefully-planned timetable can’t hope to work if the report is not acted upon.

“A political decision is needed”, in the sense of creating conditions to move forwards, said “one of the sources involved”.

DN also stresses that “these permanent State wildfire combat resources correspond to (just) half annual necessities”.

According to the government’s published thinking post-2017’s devastating fires, the Air Force should operate firefighting planes and helicopters owned by the State, as well as having responsibility for the crafts’ management.

“This presupposes a strong link and strict coordination between the military and Civil Protection bosses at the ANPC”, military sources tell the paper, stressing that tactical operations would still be the responsibility of the fire service.

“They know where they want the planes”, said an Air Force official. “We know how to manage and operate them so they can be placed in the locations where firefighters want them”.

But until a decision is made on the report, nothing can move forwards.

DN has explained, however, that due to the majority of forest wildfires taking place in the north and centre of the country, an aerodrome known as Manobra nº1, in Ovar, will be used as the ‘central base’ for aerial combat craft.

natasha.donn@algarveresident.com

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