It will be another 2 years before CAL FIRE receives first converted HC-130H air tanker

Congress gave them to the U.S. Forest Service in 2013, but the agency rejected the aircraft

tanker 116 HC-130H
Tanker 116, one of the HC-130H aircraft that was partially converted, at Redding, May, 2017.

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 a firefighting air tanker 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.

Typos, let us know HERE. And, please keep in mind our commenting ground rules before you post a comment.

8 thoughts on “It will be another 2 years before CAL FIRE receives first converted HC-130H air tanker”

  1. Interestingly most of the C130 airframes are nearly as old as I am (62). I recall fondly flying up to Baghdad from Kuwait in a C130 airframe dated 1965, with a pilot and copilot who were 28 and 25 respectively. A bit disturbing but satisfying, the crew were consummate pros.

    1. These HC-130H models are from the Coast Guard and all made in the 1980s. Tanker 118 aka 1721 has less than 6,000 hours on it. The rest were all getting new wing boxes making them essentially brand new airplanes.

  2. Cal Fire is facing the same hurdles the USFS had, and that is the language of the NDAA under which the program is structured. Unless they get away from the letter of the law in NDAA 2019, I predict these airplanes will never fly as RADS tankers.

    Also, I’m sure the same people that worked to kill the program (and put good people out of work) while it was under USFS control will try and do the same thing to the Cal Fire program.

    1. Just incase people don’t know what the NDAA is.

      The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) is the name for each of a series of United States federal laws specifying the annual budget and expenditures of the U.S. Department of Defense. The first NDAA was passed in 1961

  3. Seems like there’s a lot of fat included in this program. I’m sure there are more efficient ways for CA to get LATs. Long term maintenance, and control by USAF should be a deal breaker.

  4. This story will never end. It’s funny that the decision makers in all of these agencies don’t have the where with all to actually research what a program like this will really cost and what an honest time frame would look like. There’s a reason why the Coast Gaurd decided that they were no longer a viable platform for there mission. Along comes our pals in the USFS and they think they can pull it off. A few years and who knows how much wasted money spent, they cancel the program. Now Cal-fire thinks they can pull off what the USFS couldn’t. Last time I checked California was broke.

  5. Cal Fire/CDF has always been a leader in wild land fire fighting and does an excellent job. The C130 has continued to be a great airplane when used in the roll it was designed for. That being said, the C130 proven itself NOT to be a good platform for use as an air tanker. In the late 1980’s there was much enthusiasm regarding the C130 as an air tanker. Since those early days the airplane has proven itself structurally unsuitable for the air tanker mission. Two early model C130’s suffered wing failures and now a later model airplane most likely suffered the same fate in Australia. Other airplane types, notably B25’s and C119’s were banned from use as air tankers after suffering similar problems. Now is the time to stop spending on this program and look to other safe alternatives.

Comments are closed.