The first of the seven HC-130H former Coast Guard aircraft that Congress sent to the U.S. Forest Service in 2013, which were then rejected and regifted to CAL FIRE, will not be fully converted into firefighting air tankers until 2021. The remaining six will be finished in the following years. The aircraft need various levels of depot level maintenance, some need new wing boxes, and they all need retardant delivery systems.
The Air Force is responsible for the required major maintenance and installation of the retardant systems. Three years ago they awarded a contract for the retardant systems, then cancelled it. A new request for proposals was issued March 9, 2019 with a response due date of April 29, 2019.
California Senator Dianne Feinstein and nine other members of California’s congressional delegation sent a letter to Defense Secretary James Mattis and Air Force Secretary Heather A. Wilson several months ago in an attempt to motivate them to quit dragging their feet on the project.
In 2016 the Forest Service put together a brief planned timeline for receiving and modifying the aircraft which assumed the last of the seven would be fully converted into air tankers and delivered to the agency in 2019.
We have written about this debacle 38 times since the legislation to transfer and refit the aircraft was passed in 2013.