Today two C-130 MAFFS aircraft from the Air Force Reserve base in Colorado, the 302nd Airlift Wing, were activated after receiving a request from the National Interagency Fire Center. Sorties by MAFFS 2 and MAFFS 5 started today on the Spring Creek Fire in south-central Colorado.
The Modular Airborne FireFighting Systems (MAFFS) that convert a military aircraft into an air tanker can be installed in a C-130 in a matter of hours. The units hold up to 3,000 gallons of water or retardant that is forced out of the tanks by compressed air.
The MAFFS program consists of eight units located at four military bases in the western United States — Channel Islands, Cheyenne, Colorado Springs, and Reno. All are Air National Guard bases except for the Air Force Reserve Wing at Colorado Springs. Each base has two of systems except for the new kid on the block, Reno — one of their two MAFFS is being used by a C-130 that was originally expected to be transferred from the Coast Guard to the U.S. Forest Service.
The concept behind the MAFFS is to have surge capacity. The units can be activated when ongoing wildfires reduce the ability of the 13 large air tankers on federal exclusive use contracts, or the 11 on call when needed contract, to respond to new initial attack and extended attack fires.
Governors have the authority to activate their National Guard MAFFS as needed. The National Interagency Fire Center can also activate them.