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Technology 101: Fire Bomber – MMEA’s Bombardier CL-415


MMEA’s Bombardier CL-415 thick in action – Image source: Bernama & MMEA

We need to buy more of this excellent fire bomber in the near future – wild fires & man made fires is expected to compound the environment for many years to come. We need to have the right tools and trained resources to put out the fire before it becomes a national crisis. And given the source of haze is from Indonesia, they need to have more fire bombers in their inventory.

First in Asia

Seriously I did not know we even had one in service but further digging in the internet shows that our MMEA (Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency) had 2 of these amphibious aircraft since 2008. In fact, Malaysia was the first country in Asia to have this excellent aircraft for maritime patrol & enforcement and aerial fire fighting.

The CL-415 is a modern fire fighting amphibious flying boat for use in detecting and suppressing forest fires. It can take up 6,137 litres of water for fire fighting tasks and an endurance of 3 hours within a range of 370 kilometres from the base. Considering that forest fires are too frequent in Canada, it is no surprise that Canada has 64 CL-415.

Indonesia on the other hand may opt to buy ShinMaywa US-2 which is a Japanese made amphibious aircraft (expected to cost USD113 million per aircraft). The Russians have their version in form of Beriev Be-12 (and the bigger Be-200) which started back in the 1960s for the Soviet Union maritime patrol.

MMEA & Haze

Haze Indonesia

This shows how versatile is the CL-415 & skillful our pilots are when it comes to fire fighting capability – Image source: Bernama & MMEA

MMEA’s CL-415 had been in thick of action in fighting forest fires since the country had enveloped with haze:-

The Bombardier CL 415 aircraft owned by Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA), which is involved in a mission to put out the forest fires in South Sumatra, Indonesia, carried out 13 water bombings on the second day of the operation yesterday.

MMEA deputy director-general (Operations), Rear Admiral (Maritime) Datuk Che Hassan Jusoh said the mission which lasted four hours and 40 minutes involved the use of 78,000 litres of water.

The bombardier aircraft had carried out water scooping 10 times and water bombing 10 times within four hours of assignment on the first day of the operation on Sunday.


And this also included fire fighting operations in the country:-

The operation to fight forest and peatland fires in Sri Aman, Sarawak, which entered its seventh day Sunday (Sept 22), was boosted through the successful “water bombing” exercise by a Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency’s (MMEA) Bombardier CL-415 aircraft.

In Sunday’s operation, the aircraft, which began sorties at 8.15am, conducted 10 sorties over four hours, spraying a total of 60,000 litres of water to bring the fire under control.

The fire fighting operation spanning 54ha of forest land also saw the Fire and Rescue Department using its MI-171 helicopters to douse the blaze, with an active force of 30 firemen, aided by personnel from other agencies such as the Malaysian Armed Forces and MMEA.


Next Move

And this may need to be extended to the Fire and Rescue Department as well:-

The Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) is ready to conduct training for the Fire and Rescue Department personnel on how to operate the Bombardier CL-415 aircraft.

Its director-general, Maritime Admiral Mohd Zubil Mat Som said Sarawak – the largest state in the country with vast swathes of land inaccessible by road – must be equipped with at least one unit of such an aircraft.

The Bombardier CL-415 aircraft can scoop water from a river and drop it on areas that are ablaze.
The amphibious aircraft, based on the Canadair CL-215 and designed specifically for aerial fire fighting, was previously built by Canada based Canadair and is now manufactured by Bombardier Inc.

The aircraft has a top speed of 359 km/h, with a range of 2,443 km and is currently used by Italy, Greece and France among others and costs US$31 million (RM129,691,600).


At a cost of RM130 million each, these fire bombers do not come cheap. However consider the cost of damages that haze has caused the country from closure of schools, increase of haze related medical cases, and impact on the tourism industry, the cost of buying effective fire fighting bombers that can also other multi role functions may be justified.

Malaysia suffered RM1.57 billion in healthcare and loss of income opportunities in 2013 due to smoke from forest fires in Indonesia, according to a research paper published by Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) last year.

“This included the cost of illness, cost of medical treatment and hospitalisation, cost of medical-related leave taken as well as purchasing air pollution mask as protection.

“It also affects productivity as a whole when patients lose income opportunities when they are sick and this in turn affect the larger economy.”


We have yet to estimate the cost of damages caused by the haze for this year but expect it to be much higher than the figures back in 2013.

But in addition to enforcing the law against illegal burning & man made forest fires (of which Indonesia is said to be doing very poorly), the nations in this region who are affected by haze have also need to beef up their fire fighting capabilities and it should start with Indonesia getting more fire bombers in place. They should be the first responders and others like Malaysia’s MMEA fire bombers can be reassigned to other areas of the fire.

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