Babcock International Awarded Contract by Italy for Airborne Firefighting Service

by Matthew Beres, Airborne Retrofit & Modernization Analyst, Forecast International.

CL-415 fire fighter drops water on flames

Europe and North America both experienced devastating wildfires in 2017, part of a current trend that pits suburban sprawl against hazardous fire-prone geography. Airborne firefighting platforms such as the CL-415 are often vital to firefighting responses following a major fire outbreak.

Babcock International of the U.K. was recently awarded a major contract by the Italian Ministry of Interior for an outsourced airborne firefighting service. This approximately GBP160 million rebid contract runs for four years and includes an option for a four-year extension. This extension could increase the contract’s value to GBP320 million. Contract activity began in February 2018.

The contract will ensure delivery of firefighting services across 10 Italian bases, as well as providing for fleet management, operations and maintenance of 19 CL-415 Canadair aircraft owned by the Italian government.

A total of 170 water-bombers are in service with 21 operations in 11 countries. Approximately 40 CL-215 pistons are currently operated in Canada, while 70 are active worldwide, most either by or for provincial governments.

In 2016, Bombardier sold its amphibious aircraft unit to British Columbia’s Viking Air Ltd, including Supplemental Type Certificates for the CL-215, CL-215T, and Bombardier 415, along with aftermarket services.

Viking Air has allocated a 50,000-square-foot facility in Calgary for the support of aircraft currently in operation, and is capable of building new aircraft.

The increased threat from worldwide fire hazards has the potential to breathe life into the CL-415 retrofit and MRO market. As long as fires continue to threaten international populations, CL-415s and other firefighting aircraft will need maintenance and upgrades in order to remain airworthy and part of active fleets.


Forecast International’s Airborne Retrofit & Modernization Forecast provides operators in the military and commercial aviation sectors with the information they need to maximize their current investments rather than expand their fleets, a trend that is opening up multiple opportunities for the expansion of retrofit and modernization programs. It offers a one-stop service for tracking the status of commercial and military R&M programs in progress worldwide, and pinpoints key developments in the aviation industry that will impact the market in the future.