HC-130H news: Tanker 118 to be replaced by Tanker 116 at McClellan this year

T-110 HC-130H air tanker

Above: Tanker 118, an HC-130H, at McClellan Airfield. Photo by Jon Wright, July 25, 2015.

The induction, modification, and maintenance program for the seven Coast Guard HC-130H aircraft into the U.S. Forest Service’s government-owned air tanker fleet is requiring some shuffling of the planes. In 2015 Tanker 118 (Coast Guard #1721) operated as an air tanker out of McClellan Airfield. It did not have a conventional gravity-based retardant tank installed yet so it was temporarily outfitted with one of the eight Modular Airborne FireFighting Systems (MAFFS) that are normally only used by military C-130s conscripted into an air tanker role during periods of high wildfire activity.

T-118 will be going through programmed depot maintenance (PDM) at the Coast Guard facility at Elizabeth City, North Carolina. Replacing it during the 2016 fire season will be Tanker 116 (Coast Guard #1708) after its PDM is complete at Robins Air Force Base in Georgia. Like its predecessor, it will use a MAFFS unit, rather than a gravity tank, and will be based at McClellan Airfield at the facility the USFS likes to call “Forest Service Air Station McClellan”.

One of the obvious differences between T-118 last year and T-116 this year will be the freshly applied USFS approved livery. The HC-130Hs are being painted as they go through PDM.

C-130 paint design Forest Service
The paint design that has been approved by the Forest Service for the seven C-130s that are being transferred from the Coast Guard to the Forest Service.

The plan is for all seven of the HC-130Hs to have a gravity-based retardant delivery system. Most of the maintenance and retrofitting of the aircraft, including arranging for the installation of the retardant system, is being done by the Air Force on their own schedule. There is no indication, however, that their September 17, 2014 solicitation for the retardant tanks has been awarded, after 18 months.

Jennifer Jones, a spokesperson for the USFS, told us the schedule calls for the programmed depot maintenance and the installation of the retardant systems to occur on the seven aircraft between 2016 and 2020. The delivery of the first HC-130H with a new retardant delivery system is expected in late 2017 or early 2018 with incremental delivery of the remaining aircraft through 2019.

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4 thoughts on “HC-130H news: Tanker 118 to be replaced by Tanker 116 at McClellan this year”

  1. Does anyone know if the USFS is removing the LORAN system from the C130’s when they go through overhaul? Or stripping the military gear off the aircraft, which might not be required for the mission. Though the aircraft are still government owned can the USFS do what they want with them, like utilize them for some other mission while not on fires?

  2. Bill- if I understand your last series of articles on fire aviation am I to conclude:

    1. They only managed to keep the first 130 H operable for half of one fire season before having to send it in for additional maintenance and work?

    2. That despite advertising for the development of a new MAFF system 18 months ago that they are still limited by the number of MAFF II units available for either FS C-130 H’s or Air National Guard C-130s to no more than Eighr extra aircraft and will be so for another two to five years?

    3. After contracting for just two pilots to operate the FS C-130H and finding out if one pilot has to take a sick day the plane sits in Sacramento unusable, that they have not yet solved that $100,000 per day potential problem?

    4. That if your rumors are right – that Buffalo Air in Canada will soon be operating one of the former Aero Union P-3s. And if history can suggest the future; the FS will allow the very planes they deemed to be unsafe to fight fires in the US because, and this is just so rich, becuase Air Transport Canada has certified them to be safe?

    I am sorry, is there anyone out there that can tell me how the last four years of bumbling by the Forest Service has advanced aerial fire fighting capabilities.

    While the current FS Fire and Aviation Management team work to protect Tom Harbors “legacy” we can only hope that the private companies can bring on additional Next Gen aircraft to fill the breach.

    1. Frank:

      1. All seven of the HC-130H aircraft need major maintenance plus retrofitting as an air tanker. The USFS plan is to rotate aircraft into McClellan as various stages of the work is being done.

      4. It’s not a rumor. Buffalo Airways bought a P3 in 2014. It is currently being worked on in Florida. The company expects it to live on an as air tanker.

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