Two Kamov-32 firefighting helicopters are set to arrive in Cyprus on Tuesday and expected to operate in the coming weekend following a choppy procurement process and the signing of the leasing contract on Friday.
The Russian build Kamovs are being leased from a Greek based company to the forestry department for a period of two years with a two-year extension option.
Referring to a recent story by daily Politis regarding the procurement process and the obsession on behalf of authorities to lease these specific Russian helicopters, forestry department director Charalambos Alexandrou told the Cyprus news agency that there was never a specific preference on their behalf regarding these helicopters.
“We set certain specifications with the most basic being the ability to carry at least three and a half tons of water and have a two-hour flight capacity in relation to their fuel reserve. From there on, the result was guided by the lowest bidder,” he said.
Moreover, he added that the bid for the Kamovs was the lowest, that the forestry department had secured an approval from the finance ministry regarding the availability of funds and an approval by the public procurement authority regarding the validity of the tender documents.
The two helicopters will be based and operate from Andreas Papandreou airport in Paphos along with the two Air Tractor planes already there.
The Republic’s fleet will now be numbering eight primary firefighting aircrafts.
“Last year we had six primary aircraft and we had set the goal of increasing them to eight. The goal is evidently being implemented,” Alexandrou told the Cyprus news agency.
Additionally, Alexandrou said that both the fire service and forestry department operate surveillance drones for fire prevention purposes in cooperation with the Cyprus institute.
Speaking for the forestry department at least, he said that this is only temporary until their staff is trained to manage said drones themselves.
The helicopters are expected to carry out their final airworthiness tests in line with the contract on Thursday and be placed at the forestry department’s disposal thereafter.
This comes at a time when forest fires in Cyprus are peaking while the firefighting department is overworked and understaffed, according to firefighter’s association comments earlier this month.