Portuguese Air Force needs at least five more helicopters as the Portuguese government decided that the service will coordinate aerial firefighting operations.

More than 600 forest fires affected Northern Portugal and Northwestern Spain between October 13 and 18. The wildfires have claimed the lives of at least 49 people, including 45 in Portugal and four in Spain, and dozens more were injured.

The additional helicopters needed to fight wildfires are worth about €20.5 million. Recently Air Force chiefs informed about it the Portuguese Minister of Defense José Azeredo Lopes, Algarve Daily News informs.

According to Portugal News, the Minister claimed that it is still too early to talk about more aircraft, but this possibility exists.

“Buying a helicopter is not like going to the supermarket,” the Portugal News quotes José Azeredo Lopes.  “The aircraft purchase process has begun.”

José Azeredo Lopes also added that the Air Force had been asked to shortly deliver a study into what it considers to be the correct model for the management command.

The five new helicopters that Air Force needs should replace old Alouette helicopters, operated by the Portuguese Air Force since 1963, Algarve Daily News reports. 

But these new helicopters, when ordered will arrive in Portugal not earlier than in the second half of 2019, and any additional ones needed, will have similar lead times.

In May 2017, Portugal has already launched a helicopter tender. For now, it has applications from Leonardo in Italy and Airbus Defense and Space SAS, based in Toulouse, France, according to Portuguese media. Airbus has €300 million of earlier supply obligations to discharge in Portugal.