U.S. Air Force provides MAFFS training in Colombia, South America

MAFFS C-130 Columbian Air Force
File photo. A Colombian Air Force C-130 makes a demonstration drop with a MAFFS unit. March 29, 2017. Photo by Bill Gabbert.

U.S. Air Force personnel from four bases in the United States travelled to South America to work with the Colombian armed forces as part of a mobile training team from February 11 through March 11 at two air bases in Colombia.

The team was comprised of 15 air advisors from the 571st MSAS at Travis Air Force Base, California, and six total force instructors from three other U.S. Air Force units. The training covered a variety of areas of cooperation between the U.S. and Colombia. It aimed at supporting Colombia in their pursuit to counter transnational and transregional threat networksm aerial firefighting, and to enhance the capability of the Fuerza Aerea Colombiana, their air force also known as the FAC.

Additionally, the 571st MSAS team provided ground training to the Colombian air force on Modular Airborne Fire Fighting Systems, or MAFFS, a system loaded into the back of a C-130 aircraft that drops fire retardant to aid in stopping the spread of wildfires.

The Columbian government purchased a MAFFS unit in 2017 from MAFFS Joint Venture, a private company in California.

MAFFS training Columbia
U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Richard Pantusa, 731st Airlift Squadron Modular Airborne Fire Fighting Systems instructor pilot from Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado, demonstrates the effectiveness of fire retardant in combating forest fires to members from the Fuerza Aerea Colombiana in Columbia, March 4, 2020. Employing an aerial firefighting capability will help the FAC in combatting wild fires, both internally and internationally. The specialized training, provided by the U.S. Air Force Reserve Command personnel, was a stepping stone to future work with the FAC on further enhancing this capability. (Courtesy photo)

Aerial firefighting capability will help the FAC in combatting wildfires, both internally and internationally. The specialized training provided by the U.S. Air Force Reserve Command personnel was a stepping stone to future work with the FAC on further enhancing this capability.

“While a very effective fire-fighting tool, this specific mission set requires consistent practice,” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Richard Pantusa, 731st Airlift Squadron MAFFS instructor pilot from Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado. “It is inherently a dangerous mission — flying low over mountainous terrain that is on fire. The FAC has a new MAFFS program that includes highly motivated and knowledgeable C-130 operators who are attempting to grow their MAFFS program.”

While training on the diverse capabilities of the C-130 was the main focus of the mission, the 571st MSAS air advisors also took the opportunity to support additional U.S. Southern Command lines of effort by continuing to develop interoperability between the U.S. and Colombia.

More photos from the delivery of the MAFFS unit in Colombia, March 29, 2017.

Bradford Beck of United Aeronautical talks about the sale of a MAFFS to the Colombian Air Force

MAFFS Colombia Air Force

Above: A MAFFS II recently acquired by the Colombian Air Force is installed in one of their C-130H aircraft.

In the video below, Bradford Beck, the President and COO of United Aeronautical, describes the Modular Airborne FireFighting System (MAFFS II) that his company recently manufactured and sold to the Colombian Air Force. It was recorded in Villavicencio, Colombia.

More information and a photo gallery about the Colombian MAFFS.

Colombian MAFFS: photo gallery

On March 30 we wrote about the Colombian Air Force acquiring a Modular Airborne FireFighting System (MAFFS). Installed in a C-130H this will be the first time they have had access to a fixed wing firefighting aircraft.

Some of the photos below were taken by Bill Gabbert at the March 29 ceremony where the government officially accepted the MAFFS unit. Others were taken by professional photographer John Daniel Russell over the previous one to two weeks. (John’s web site is not active now, but is expected to debut later.)

After you click on one of the thumbnails below, the gallery view will open. Captions, if available, are above the images.

 

 

 

 

Colombia begins a MAFFS program

Colombian MAFFS

Above:  A Colombian Air Force C-130H makes a water drop at Apiay Air Force Base in Colombia, March 29, 2017. Photo by Bill Gabbert.

Colombia is now on the list of countries that are using Modular Airborne FireFighting Systems (MAFFS) to help firefighters on the ground.

Yesterday, March 29, in a ceremony at Apiay Air Force Base near Villavicencio the Colombian government officially took possession of a new MAFFS II retardant delivery system. A C-130 with the new hardware made two demonstration drops with water in front a crowd of dignitaries, many of whom made speeches, including Colombia’s Minister of Defense Luis Carlos Villegas Echeverri.

Minister of Defense Luis Carlos Villegas Echeverri
Minister of Defense Luis Carlos Villegas Echeverri speaks at the MAFFS ceremony March 29, 2017. Photo by Bill Gabbert.
It is the first of the second generation MAFFS to be sold outside the United States. The U.S. Forest Service has eight MAFFS II’s that can be slipped into a C-130 converting it in a matter of hours to a 3,000-gallon air tanker. 

A private company, MAFFS Joint Venture based in California, purchased the intellectual property from the now bankrupt Aero Union (that designed and built the MAFFS) and is now manufacturing the second generation systems for sale around the world, with the one in Colombia being their first one delivered. Bradford Beck, the President and COO of MAFFS, said they have a second unit in production for an undisclosed buyer.

C-130 Colombia
Colombian C-130 in which the MAFFS was installed. Photo by Bill Gabbert.
Mr. Beck said there are nine MAFFS 1 units outside the U.S. — Brazil, Tunisia, Morocco, and Turkey each have two, and there is one in Thailand.

The main differences between the two versions is that the MAFFS II has onboard air compressors, the retardant exits the aircraft through the paratroop door on the left side rather than out the rear cargo ramp, it has the ability to inject foam concentrate, it can produce coverage levels 1 through 8, and it is more controllable for split drops (starting and stopping the flow). The coverage level refers to the number of gallons per 100 square feet.

Colonel Rodrigo Zapata of the Colombian Air Force said the MAFFS unit will primarily be based at the very busy El Dorado International Airport near Bogota at 8,300 feet above sea level, but it can work out of lower elevation airports as needed. They will be installing a fire retardant plant at El Dorado.

Major General Jorge Borbon said the Air Force has been using helicopters with water buckets for decades, but they have never used fixed wing aircraft to drop water or retardant on wildfires.

We have many photos that we will add later, as well as videos of interviews with key players, including the Colombian Minister of Defense.