Carmel wildfire - Moti Milrod - Nov. 3, 2010
A firefighting aircraft battles the Carmel wildfire near Haifa University on Nov. 3, 2010. Photo by Moti Milrod
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Representatives of the defense establishment are in the United States to study the aerial firefighting system used by the U.S. National Guard and a number of other air forces elsewhere in the world.

The Israel Air Force reportedly would prefer that a civilian body take responsibility for firefighting from the air but is preparing a number of options for the government to decide on if the army is given responsibility for the matter.

The system under examination in the United States is known as the Modular Airborne FireFighting Unit and includes tanks and hoses that can be loaded into the belly of a C-130 Hercules aircraft within a few minutes.

The system can carry 12,000 liters of fire retardant or water, which it ejects directly from the same opening from which paratroopers jump from the plane and does not damage the plane.

According to the manufacturers, the firefighting payload affects the plane no differently than any other cargo. Company officials said they offered the system to Israel four years ago but no interest was expressed.

The IAF is likely to prefer this solution as it is more economical than a special firefighting squadron that would only be used several times a year.