Earlier this month in Charlotte the 145th Airlift Wing of the North Carolina Air National Guard finalized the transfer of their Modular Airborne FireFighting System (MAFFS) mission to the Nevada Air National Guard’s 152nd Airlift Wing. On September 7 the equipment was loaded into a C-130 from Nevada Air National Guard and arrived at Reno the next day.
The previous week the Nevada Airlift Wing had completed its first training activation operating the U.S. Forest Service’s MAFFS. The other MAFFS units are at Cheyenne, Colorado Springs, and Channel Islands in California.
The USFS has 8 MAFFS units that can be slipped into a C-130 in just a few hours, converting it to a 3,000-gallon air tanker. Usually two of the units are at each of the four bases, but one is now being temporarily used in an HC-130H that was transferred from the Coast Guard to the USFS.
Above: The first 152nd C-130 equipped with a U.S. Forest Service Modular Airborne FireFighting System arrived Thursday, Sept. 8, 2016, at the Nevada Air National Guard Base in Reno. The unit completed its first fire fighting mission as co-pilots augmented with the Air Expeditionary Group the previous week. The 152nd was selected to become the new MAFFS unit in April. Photo by Tech. Sgt. Emerson Marcus September 8, 2016.
The Air National Guard unit at Reno completed its first training activation operating the U.S. Forest Service’s Modular Airborne FireFighting System last week and the first of the unit’s C-130s equipped for MAFFS arrived at the base Thursday, September 8.
In recent weeks, 12 aircrew of the 152nd activated as part of the Air Expeditionary Group fighting wildland fires in Idaho, Nevada and Oregon.
The AEG – made up of military C-130 units operating MAFFS – flew 142 sorties, 125.5 flight hours, dispensing more than 3.5 million pounds of retardant on 165 drops during the month-long activation that began in early August.
“Nevada crews have fully embraced the MAFFS mission and are committed to getting full up as quickly and safely as possible,” said Col. David Herder, deputy AEG commander. “They have been stepping in to get training with the other units whenever possible. They have been a welcome addition to the MAFFS community.”
This fire season effectively started the 152nd’s co-pilot certification clock. Co-pilot certification could be completed prior to the 2018 fire season when the unit would enter certification as aircrew commanders. Once the aircrew commander certification is complete, they then begin certification as flight instructors and could begin autonomous fire fighting missions.
“The actual drops have been challenging and exhilarating,” said Lt. Col. Tony Machabee, acting 152nd Operations Group commander and the first member of the unit to co-pilot a MAFFS mission. “It’s a great feeling to see your immediate results whether we are dropping a protective line of retardant between the fire and someone’s property or dropping ‘mud’ (retardant mix) directly on flames leaping from the tops of trees in an effort to slow the fire’s progress.”
The California Governor’s office has activated two Modular Airborne FireFighting Systems aircraft. The C-130s will be supplied by the Channel Islands Air National Guard base in southern California. Earlier this month the National Interagency Fire Center activated two other MAFFS from the Wyoming Air National Guard at Cheyenne. Initially they were staged at Boise.
Governors have the authority to activate MAFFS aircraft within their states at the three Air National Guard bases that have the units at Channel Islands, Reno, and Cheyenne. The Air Force Reserve MAFFS at Colorado Springs is a different story, however.
The National Multi-Agency Coordinating Group (NMAC) at the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho has mobilized two Department of Defense C-130s equipped with Modular Airborne FireFighting Systems (MAFFS) to assist with wildfire suppression efforts in the western United States.
The two C-130 MAFFS will be provided by the 153rd Airlift Wing, Wyoming Air National Guard, based out of Cheyenne, and the 302nd Airlift Wing, Air Force Reserve, Peterson Air Force Base, based out of Colorado Springs, Colorado. The aircraft will initially work out of Boise and are expected to be available to fly wildfire suppression missions by Wednesday, August 3.
MAFFS are intended to supplement the contracted air tanker fleet to provide surge capacity when there are not enough large air tankers to fill the requests from fire incident commanders on going fires and initial attack on emerging fires.
MAFFS are portable fire retardant delivery systems that can be inserted into military C-130 aircraft to convert them into large air tankers which can drop up to 3,000 gallons of fire retardant on wildfires.
Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard units can install a Modular Airborne Firefighting System (MAFFS) in a C-130 in a few hours when a surge capacity of air tankers is needed. But rarely do you see a MAFFS aircraft in the eastern United States.
I was surprised when I ran across the photo below of a MAFFS air tanker at Andrews Air Force Base near Washington, D.C.
The 302nd Airlift Wing (Air Force Reserve) at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs sent one of their C-130s outfitted with a MAFFS unit to the Air Force Reserve Command’s C-130 Special Mission fly-in at JB Andrews on Wednesday.
Air crews and other MAFFS personnel have been training this week at Port Hueneme, California.
Above: A 146th Airlift Wing C-130 performs water drop training in southern California on Tuesday, May 3, 2016. Photo by Tech. Sgt. Emerson Marcus.
Story by Tech. Sgt. Emerson Marcus
CHANNEL ISLANDS AIR NATIONAL GUARD STATION, Calif. — Maj. Ricardo Bravo watched as fires hurdled a ridgeline and crept toward his northern California farm.
But the fire line halted a few hundred yards away — moments before charring cropland — after C-130 aircraft dropped thousands of pounds of fire retardant using the U.S. Forest Service’s Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System (MAFFS).
“It was definitely relieving,” said Bravo, a navigator with the 152nd Airlift Wing, a Nevada Air National Guard unit stationed in Reno, Nev.
Last month, Bravo’s Air National Guard unit was named one of four MAFFS units, and he will soon execute the same missions that saved his farmland last August from the Fort Complex Fire west of Redding, Calif.
Since 1974, MAFFS — a fire retardant delivery system inserted into C-130 aircraft — has been a joint effort between the U.S. Forest Service and the Department of Defense.
“That experience provided extra motivation to execute and do a good job when we do get the mission,” said Bravo, who is one of 13 Airmen of the 152nd here this week for annual MAFFS certification.
The 152nd is set to replace the 145th Airlift Wing, of Charlotte, N.C., in the four-unit wildland firefighting mission, the National Guard Bureau announced last month.
“We are here to learn the very specialized work of being a MAFFS unit,” Col. Karl Stark, commander of the 152nd Airlift Wing, said Tuesday. “The way we see it, in the C-130 realm, all of us are pretty good athletes. But in the MAFFS community, this is the elite force that comes out and does a very, very specific mission — a very noble mission.”
The 146th Airlift Wing posted this video today — slow motion footage of a water drop.
(Originally published at 7:02 a.m. MDT, May 3, 2016)
Modular Airborne FireFighting System (MAFFS) aircraft and personnel from four bases are gathering this week for their annual training. They are being hosted by the Channel Islands Air National Guard Station in Ventura County, California, the 146th Airlift Wing. Each base can mobilize two C-130 aircraft with the slip-in fire retardant system. Usually they will send a third C-130 on each deployment with additional equipment and personnel.