Two National Guard C-130 aircraft mobilized as MAFFS air tankers

Will be on duty in Sacramento July 23

MAFFS test Colorado Springs
File photo. A 302nd Airlift Wing Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System equipped-C-130 Hercules aircraft performs a system test at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado, July 22, 2019. The aircrew later demonstrated the MAFFS at the Experimental Aircraft Association AirVenture Oshkosh air show in Wisconsin July 23-28, 2019. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Anthony Pham)

Two C-130 aircraft from the California National Guard have been activated to serve as air tankers using the Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System (MAFFS).

The C-130s from the 146th Airlift Wing will be available for wildfire support at Sacramento McClellan Airport beginning Thursday, July 23. This is the first MAFFS activation since July of 2018.

A C-130 equipped with a MAFFS can deliver up to 3,000 gallons of fire retardant. The system slides into the back of the military aircraft and retardant is sprayed under pressure through a nozzle in the troop door on the left side. MAFFS aircraft can be activated to supplement the civilian airtanker program to slow the spread of wildland fires.

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11 thoughts on “Two National Guard C-130 aircraft mobilized as MAFFS air tankers”

  1. The original Maffs had two discharge nozzles why now only one the only benifit would be a extended control line. Ali

    1. The discharge from the two nozzles never actually came together, so the pattern ended up wide and light. Plus the nozzles required the cargo ramp to be down, which created a vacuum that sucked retardant up onto the tail. Corrosion was a huge issue. The single-nozzle, paratroop nozzle actually creates a pattern that is sometimes considered too narrow, although it produces very efficient line at lower coverage levels as a result (nearly three times the length for the same volume as the old MAFFS). Retardant buildup on the fuselage is almost entirely eliminated.

        1. I find it very interesting that the info on the negative side effects of the early (mid 80s) Maffs was never past on to likely end users. I was @ the time a Rural Fire Officer for the NZ Forest Service & this unit was being touted as the next best thing to sliced Bread.
          I bear in mind in those days there was a lot of experimental work being done to advance fire suppression from the air with only the positive effects being promoted

          1. You bring up an interesting problem that ocntinues to this day, Alice. The closest anyone has gotten to attempting to share detailed, practical information about the performance of various suppression aircraft is the USFS Wildland Fire Chemical Systems group, when they published a handful of system-specific user guides ( These don’t include any information on the aircraft’s performance, such as takeoff distance, range or cruise speed. The AFUE study is intended to shed light on the performance of different aircraft types (among other things), but there is a wealth of practical information that never makes it beyond the small community of officials and firefighters that work directly with the aircraft.

    1. Consider this:

      National Guard/Air Guard CH47’s with RADS, or other roll-in tanking systems, in addition to the C-130’s.

      1. There are no CH-47s in the Air Guard, they are all strictly US Army/ARNG/USAR assets.

        1. I spoke with two crew members two nights ago from the California Army National Guard 126th Aviation Regiment. They tell me that Company B Ist Battalion, Delta Schooners, fly (CH-47’s (F model) out of Stockton, California. I was also told that those 47’s (Bambi buckets) dropped on fires in the past

          My point being that what ever military branch that has a 47 can be equipped to drop on fires.

  2. Yes, I am familiar with Co B. I flew with them for 20 years. We received 1200 gallon Bambi Buckets in 1991 and worked the HWY 41 fire near Paso Robles, San Luis Obispo area. Years later with the CH-47D, we upgraded to 2000 gallon water buckets and 2000 gallon simplex buckets. One of the big problems we had with the news media is that they referred to us as the Air National Guard, which is totally incorrect. We are US Army assets. Just trying to get the right information to the taxpaying public is a challenge.

  3. How is one able to identify these aircraft on the flight tracking websites? I know Flight Aware says that military aircraft without N numbers aren’t tracked, but you can see C5s or C-17s like FRED02 and the such.

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