Russian water bomber on display at Paris Air Show

June 21, 2011 - 8:44 AM
France Air Show

A Beriev 202 firefighting airplane performs its demonstration flight, on the first day of the Paris air show at le Bourget airport, east of Paris, Monday June 20, 2011. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)

LE BOURGET, France (AP) — A little-known Russian company is highlighting its firefighting successes to promote the world's first purpose-built jet water bomber at the Paris Air Show.

In the last few years, the Beriev Be-200 Altair has helped fight massive forest fires in Greece, Italy, Portugal, Malaysia, Indonesia and Israel.

The company so far has a total of 26 confirmed and optional sales in Russia, France and Azerbaijan, and is seeking more at this week's Paris Air Show at Le Bourget.

Because of the growing threat of huge forest fires sparked by global warming, Beriev now anticipates a global market for well over 100 water bombers in the next decade.

Beriev is especially interested in breaking into the U.S. market, where air tankers tend to be old, converted military planes, marketing director Denis V. Didenko said.

Dozens of these will need to be replaced in the next decade and Beriev is moving quickly to obtain certification from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration for the Be-200, which has just been certified by Europe's aviation safety agency.