Above: Tanker 118, an HC-130H, on the Lowell Fire, July 25, 2015. Photo by Matthew Rhodes.
If the schedule goes according to plan there will be two U.S. Forest Service HC-130H air tankers operational at McClellan Air Field by September, 2016.
In July of 2015 Tanker 118, Aircraft number 1721, showed up at McClellan and became available for fighting fires.
It is one of seven that are in the process of being transferred from the U.S. Coast Guard to the USFS. Much work has to be done before the transformation is complete, including installing an internal retardant tank (which has not been done on any of the aircraft yet), removal of unneeded military and Coast Guard equipment, programmed depot maintenance, painting, and most of them need to have the wing boxes replaced.
The U.S. Air Force is responsible for getting all of this work done, and with their own money. With that in mind, and considering other Air Force priorities must be taken into consideration, the expectation is that all seven aircraft will be fully converted and available for firefighting operations for the 2020 fire season.
Since the retardant systems have not been a installed, last year Tanker 118 used one of the eight Modular Airborne FireFighting Systems assigned to military C-130s that can install the slip-in system in a matter of hours if an air tanker surge capacity is needed. That is the plan this year too. It is unknown if another MAFFS will be installed in the second HC-130H this summer, or if that aircraft will only be used for training.
The two HC-130Hs at McClellan this year will be Tanker 116 (aircraft number 1708), and Tanker 118 (aircraft number 1721).
T 116 is currently undergoing programmed depot maintenance, demilitarization, and painting with the U.S. Air Force. Estimated completion date and delivery to McClellan is August, 2016.
T 118 is undergoing programmed depot maintenance and painting with the U.S. Coast Guard. It is expected at McClellan in September, 2016.