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.
This year the annual certification and refresher training for the Modular FireFighting System (MAFFS) crews from all four Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve bases will take place at one location, the Channel Islands Air National Guard Station in Ventura County, California (map) beginning May 1. That will begin the transition for the Reno base that recently became a MAFFS unit, a process that is expected to take three to five fire seasons according to the National Guard Bureau. The other two MAFFS bases (other than Reno and Channel Islands) are at Cheyenne and Colorado Springs.
The 146th Airlift Wing, below, is based at Channel Islands Air National Guard Station in southern California.
Above: MAFFS 8 and 9 at annual training in Cheyenne April 30, 2014. Photo by Bill Gabbert.
The Modular Airborne FireFighting System (MAFFS) mission that has been assigned to the North Carolina Air National Guard is being transferred to the Nevada Air National Guard’s 152nd Airlift Wing. The base at Reno-Tahoe International Airport will transition to obtain the ability to supply two C-130s equipped with the slip-in 3,000-gallon retardant tanks. It will be one of the four bases that can each supply up to two C-130s as part of a surge capacity when the privately contracted air tanker fleet is overtaxed. The other three are in Cheyenne, Colorado Springs, and Ventura County California.
The North Carolina unit is converting from C-130s to C-17s and that prompted the National Guard to evaluate existing C-130 Air National Guard units for a suitable replacement for the MAFFS mission, according to the National Guard.
The Great Falls Tribune also reports that some Montana politicians were very disappointed that the MAFFS were not relocated into their state. They may be assuming that the location of the units implies suddenly greatly enhanced aerial firefighting resources. But the fact is when they are activated, which can take up to a couple of days, more often than not the aircraft are deployed to a far-away base. However, the governors with MAFFS assigned to their state Air National Guards (California, Wyoming, and now Nevada) have the authority to activate the MAFFS within their states. Other activations require a national-level approval process. The units in Colorado Springs are operated by the Air Force Reserve.
Until the crash of MAFFS 7 on July 1, 2012 there were nine of the slip-in MAFFS units (which included one spare) that can convert a C-130 to an air tanker in a few hours. Now there are eight, and one of those is being used temporarily by the U.S. Forest Service in an HC-130H acquired from the Coast Guard. The plan is to use that one unit until conventional gravity-powered retardant delivery systems are installed in at least one of the seven HC-130Hs formerly owned by the Coast Guard. But that process, first started July 29, 2014, is stalled. That means a maximum of only seven military aircraft outfitted with MAFFS units can be activated. In 2015 the North Carolina unit was the base with only one MAFFS.
This year the annual certification and refresher training for the MAFFS crews from all four bases will take place at one location, the Channel Islands Air National Guard Station in Ventura County, California (map) beginning May 1. That will begin the transition for the Reno-based personnel, a process that is expected to take three to five fire seasons, according to the National Guard Bureau.
Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Bean and Dave.