Earlier this year MSB signed an agreement with Saab AB, which will be the supplier of light scooping aircraft. The contract between MSB and Saab AB covers the provision of two light scooping aircraft as well as crews, maintenance and all necessary logistics. The agreement also includes the possibility of triggering an option on two more aircraft during the period from 2021 to 2023.
On Wednesday 3 June the planes were readied for action and joined rescEU. This means that forest fire preparedness will be strengthened in northern Europe, including Sweden. EU is covering 90 per cent of the cost. “After the extensive forest fires in the summer of 2018, MSB was instructed to further strengthen forest fire preparedness. A series of measures were undertaken in preparation for the summer of 2019, including an agreement with a private helicopter supplier for aerial firefighting. As a second step, MSB suggested that Sweden obtain access to light scooper aircraft and offers to host them as a rescEU asset – and that is where we are now,” says Dan Eliasson, Director-General of MSB.
“Climate change means that problems with forest fires may well become even greater in future. We need to continue developing our preparedness in order to meet these challenges. Getting access to light scooper aircraft is the second step of a three-step process we have proposed for the strengthening of forest fire preparedness in a staggered manner. The third step will be to evaluate, on the basis of experiences with the light scooping aircraft, whether Sweden should acquire heavier scooping aircraft.”
During the first year of the agreement MSB and Saab will devote a lot of time to developing capacity. This will be done partly through training and exercises in close collaboration with rescue services and county administrative boards, and also by drawing lessons from how the planes are used in action. As these aircraft are an EU capacity, they may also intervene abroad. It is important to collaborate with the Commission and with neighbouring countries in northern Europe to establish good standard operations.
“In northern Europe there’s a shortage of light scooping aircraft and other airborne resources for fighting forest fires. Just as the helicopters are, these planes are part of rescEU, which in turn is part of the EU’s Civil protection mechanism. Through rescEU the planes will become a shared resource hosted by Sweden,” Eliasson adds.