Cyprus

RAF Helicopters Take Part In Major Firefighting Exercise In Cyprus

Last year alone, Cyprus suffered 136 wildfires which destroyed four square miles of the island.

RAF personnel have been practising their firefighting skills during a major exercise in Cyprus' Troodos Mountains.

Two Griffin helicopters from 84 Squadron and aircraft from the Republic of Cyprus took part in Exercise IFESTOS which tested the island's response to a major wildfire.

The annual exercise, organised by the Cyprus Forestry Department, began with firefighters setting barrels alight to simulate a fire.

Air support and two specially-adapted aircraft were called into action by ground forces, with 84 Squadron scooping up water from a nearby reservoir before dropping it over the simulated fire.

RAF crew dropped water from a reservoir over the simulated fire.
RAF crew dropped water from a reservoir over the simulated fire.

Flight Lieutenant Jez Bowles said the exercise, held in the Troodos Mountains, was "quite difficult".

"It was quite mountainous terrain, there was a reasonable amount of wind, and also due to the distance from Akrotiri, we had to carry a little bit more fuel than anticipated so we were operating at quite high weights."

Last year alone, Cyprus suffered 136 wildfires which destroyed four square miles.

In 2016, the island experienced its worst fires for a decade, with one blaze destroying 15 kilometres of land in four days.

Fires in Cyprus in 2016 were the worst for decades, burning more than 15 kilometres of land.
Fires in Cyprus in 2016 were the worst in a decade, burning more than 15 kilometres of land.

RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus played an important role three years ago, flying mission-after-mission to stop the fires spreading any further.

With another summer of searing heat expected, Costas Kadis, Cyprus Minister of Agriculture, Rural Development and Environment, said all services "need to prepared and coordinated".

"This kind of exercise is of utmost importance to test everything is ready."