If C-130s are transferred to the USFS, they will have gravity retardant tanks

We were able to find documentation that if the seven Coast Guard C-130H aircraft are transferred to the U.S. Forest Service as required in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2014 (NDAA), they WILL have gravity assisted retardant tanks, rather than a Modular Airborne FireFighting System (MAFFS) pressurized tank like is used on the military MAFFS C-130s.

The NDAA passed in the House on December 12 with a vote of 350 to 69. Its next stop will be the Senate, which is expected to take up the bill this week before they adjourn on December 20.

We found the retardant tank requirement in the 1,106-page NDAA bill along with some other interesting details. There are time elements mentioned, such as allowing 45 days after the act passes to begin the transfer of the C-130Hs. And “at the first available opportunity, promptly schedule” the “center and outer wing- box replacement modifications, programmed depot-level maintenance, and modifications necessary to procure and integrate a gravity-drop aerial fire retardant dispersal system in each such HC–130H aircraft”.

A maximum cost of $130 million of Air Force funds was established for all of the maintenance and modification work on the seven aircraft. The bill also specifies that no more than $5 million shall be spent on each HC–130H aircraft for the “gravity-drop aerial fire retardant dispersal system”. If the modifications exceed these limits, the additional funds will have to be provided by the U.S. Forest Service.

Redding smokejumpers' Shorts 330 Sherpa
Redding smokejumpers’ Shorts 330 Sherpa. USFS photo.

The transfer of “not more than” 15 C-23B+ S Sherpa aircraft” is required to begin within 45 days of the passage of the bill. If they receive them, the USFS could use the Sherpas for smokejumping and for hauling cargo. In 1991 the agency acquired six Shorts 330 Sherpas and has used them as smokejumper platforms. The 330s are similar to the C-23B+ Sherpas but have smaller engines and a lower cruising speed. The military C-23B+ S Sherpas also have a rear drop-down cargo door which could be used by smokejumpers. The transfer of the Sherpas would allow the USFS to stop contracting for jumper aircraft such as the Twin Otters and have an all-Sherpa jumper fleet that is Government-Owned/Contractor Operated, bringing some standardization to the jumper fleet. The acquisition of 15 Sherpas might even make the retirement of the DC-3 more palatable.

9 thoughts on “If C-130s are transferred to the USFS, they will have gravity retardant tanks”

  1. “at the first available opportunity” oil change and a lube, send her out. Some of the commenters have performed maintenance on Hercs, Best of luck with this new F.S. adventure. Sounds like a whole lot of work, time and money. Seven will start and two will be completed?

      1. What I mean is how much of a priority
        is going to be given these aircraft? I will
        wager that they are not going to the front
        of the wing box line…

  2. The comments about the DC-3T retirement are a bit premature. The DC-3T will still outperform the C23B+ in terms of carrying capacity, speed, and the ability to use a plane that size in various backcountry airstrips in R-1 and R-4 as well as in New Mexico’s grass strips. Some FS managers and a smattering of commenters to this blog don’t realize the importance of an aircraft like the turbine-modified “Doug” to the fire and aviation program. In terms of the C23B+, that aircraft is well-suited to the smokejumper program yet some serious issues have not be answered as to replacement current contract aircraft. For the most part, that platform will work well in Redding, Redmond, Winthrop, Boise, Fairbanks and various “spike base” airports. However, R-1 and R-4 operations may have a problem with blanket assignment to each base. The Clear/Nez Forest needs an aircraft that can easily work in Shearer, Moose Creek, and Fish Lake airstrips. The C23B+ won’t cut it in two out of the three and maybe all three airstrips. That forest loves their twin otter for access into those airstrips. Also, how much will be the download on the C23B+ coming out of West Yellowstone on a 75+ degree day!!! West Yellowstone loves their Dornier for its speed and versatility.

    So before these new aircraft are plugged into all jump bases, fire and aviation managers need to understand the potential uses that will be lost and holes in the fire and aviation program the C23 B+ will create.

    1. Great comment.

      I believe the talk of retirement of the DC-3 is premature – for all of the reasons that you outlined plus the fact that the Forest Service isn’t necessarily great at streamlining. I’d predict that it stays on for the foreseeable future, but I also believe that the C-23s will make the fleet more efficient.

      There shouldn’t be any excuses for not having aircraft available in 2014.

  3. We will see about excuses and program integration for 2014….seeing about tight budgets, staffing and maintenance needs for 15 additional aircraft and spares…..

    Yeah 2014 ought to a phenomenal year acquiring aircraft that USFS probably is not geared up for currently.

    But I have been wrong before…

  4. I remember when I saw the first DC3T at Missoula (1989)- l was flying with Jim Mc Gowan. I had a tour by a smokejumper ,who’s name escapes me. He said: ” He**,
    some one will hang warp drive on a Doug, and they ‘ll be
    flying for star fleet!”. I wouldn’t. Count the Three out yet…

  5. Like tg…..

    I loved climbing up on the old -3T on many a winter night refueling when folks were using Basler DC 3 conversions in MSP as early as 1987.

    I am sure the feelings are equal….to my buddies who are now out of flying where they cut their teeth in aviation….with the DC3 or the 3T.

    Hard aircraft to replace…BUT the days are coming like H&P and Aero Union……that the DC3T won’ t be viewed by many land managers as it is by pilots……and it will parked in a museum…..like the other one.

    It will be like pilots shedding tears when the Huey went away from the Army…….

  6. Where are the 7 c-130s coming from? Does the CG have 7 excess c-130s? Or will the c-27s replace operational aircraft and the c-130s will not be available until after the transition.

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