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With the Indian Air Force (IAF) planning to phase out its aging An-32 transport fleet, a compelling argument exists to repurpose at least a portion of these aircraft. Forest fires are a growing threat in India, and the An-32 platform offers a unique opportunity to address this challenge through conversion to the Antonov An-32P Firekiller.

Data from the Forest Survey of India paints a worrying picture. Over half (54.40%) of India’s forests face occasional fires, with a significant portion (7.49%) experiencing moderately frequent fires and another worrying section (2.40%) battling high fire incidence. These statistics highlight the urgent need for a robust firefighting strategy.

The An-32P Firekiller, derived from the An-32 transport aircraft, presents a compelling solution. This specialized variant boasts capabilities ideally suited for India’s forest fire challenges:

  • Fire Extinguishing: Equipped with special tanks, the Firekiller can discharge eight tons of fire retardant liquid, creating a firebreak on the ground.
  • Smokejumper Deployment: The aircraft can airdrop smokejumpers, firefighters specially trained to parachute into fire zones, along with their equipment and supplies.
  • Proven Performance: Over a decade of operational experience has confirmed the effectiveness of the Firekiller’s design.

Converting existing An-32s into Firekillers presents a cost-effective approach compared to purchasing entirely new firefighting aircraft. Furthermore, these repurposed planes would leverage the existing infrastructure and expertise within the IAF, ensuring a smooth integration.

While the An-32P Firekiller provides a strong foundation, upgrades for night-time operations and enhanced firefighting capabilities would further solidify India’s aerial firefighting arsenal.