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23 July, 2024
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Armed forces' drones to monitor fires in Greece

Israeli drones aid in Rhodes' wildfire crisis

Kathimerini Greece Newsroom

By Stavros Ioannides

A modern "tool" with impressive surveillance capabilities is available to the Unified Coordination Center of Operations and Crisis Management of the Civil Protection in the "battle" against wildfires.

Using the accumulated experience from using UAV HERON in surveillance and information-gathering missions in the Aegean and the Eastern Mediterranean, the Armed Forces have deployed Israeli unmanned aircraft to coordinate the forces operating in Rhodes and monitor the entire territory of the country.

Early Saturday morning, one of the UAV HERON from the 390th Unmanned Aircraft Squadron took off from the 135th Combat Wing in Skyros as part of emergency measures due to the high risk of fire outbreaks. Until the afternoon, it conducted surveillance flights in mainland Greece, in areas designated as alert level 4 according to the Civil Protection's map.

When the wildfire in Rhodes got out of control and threatened villages and tourist areas, the HERON moved to the critical zone, providing high-resolution imagery to the National Center of Operations and then to all participating agencies in the coordination efforts. The mission continued until the evening and early Sunday morning, it returned to Rhodes, recording the developments of the fire fronts with impressive accuracy, minute by minute.

The HERON provided valuable information essential for coordinating both ground and aerial resources. Flying at 30,000 feet, high enough not to obstruct firefighting aircraft, it facilitated better coordination of resources based on the information and live visuals sent to the coordination center.

During the devastating wildfires in August 2021, the Armed Forces had already deployed their unmanned aircraft to assist in coordinating firefighting efforts in northern Evia. Although the HERON had only been in service with the Air Force for two months, their services proved invaluable in coordinating firefighting operations.

These days, as the fire danger remains high, military units are using smaller drones to monitor both the mainland and the islands. In addition to unmanned aircraft, five UH-1H Huey helicopters conduct daily flights from 14:00 to 17:00 over Chios, Lesbos, Samos, Kos, Larissa, and Volos, contributing to surveillance efforts.

The coordination center of the Civil Protection has at its disposal 214 military ground patrols for surveillance, with 1,284 personnel and 642 vehicles. All units and resources of the "Xenokratis" (5,312 personnel) and "Deucalion" (341 personnel) plans are on standby with a two-hour readiness. Continuous patrols within a 5-kilometer radius around all military camps across the country, including monitoring central roads in Parnitha, Penteli, Hymettus, Aegaleo, Mount Merenda, and Nea Makri, are among the responsibilities of the Armed Forces.

The Military Hospitals and Health Units are also on standby. Additionally, Civil Protection has access to Naval Warships, such as the missile boat "NTEGIANIS," which was called to assist in evacuating tourists in Rhodes.

[This article was translated from its Greek original]

Cyprus  |  drones  |  wildfire  |  Greece  |  Rhodes  |  crisis

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