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.

Video of MAFFS air tanker crews training to fight fire

Video of the C-130s was shot in May, 2019 during annual MAFFS training at Colorado Springs, Colorado

MAFFS drop
MAFFS drop. Screenshot from the video.

The video below was posted today by AIRAILIMAGES. Here is their description:


Footage depicts Air National Guard C-130H Hercules transports fitted with the Modular Airborne Firefighting System (MAFFS) making low passes and water drops during the 2019 training and recertification of MAFFS crews in Colorado Springs, Colorado, in May. Visible also is the U.S. Forest Service’s new King Air 250 lead plane, flying ahead of a C-130 from the Nevada Air National Guard 152nd Airlift Wing. An OV-10 Bronco later leads a C-130 from the Wyoming Air National Guard 153rd Airlift Wing. Listen for thunder in the mountains as the Wyoming ANG flies. Several military C-130 units are MAFFS-qualified to assist in wildfire containment during peak fire season when civilian air tanker assets are heavily tasked. The MAFFS system can be installed in a standard C-130 when needed.

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Fred. Typos or errors, report them HERE.

Video of firefighting aircraft at Oshkosh 2019

MAFFS Oshkosh
MAFFS 5 at Oshkosh July 27, 2019. Screenshot from Airailimages video below.

Fred Johnson of Airailimages sent us information about this video that he shot July 17 at Oshkosh 2019. Here’s how he described it:

A sustained air tanker firefighting flying display featured a CL-215 scooper water bomber, a MAFFS C-130 tanker, and a vintage A-26 marked as Conair A-26 Tanker 21; the A-26 made passes but did not participate in the water drops. A Shrike Commander used as an air attack airborne command and control center for firefighting also flew during this interesting scenario. Then look at the mighty Yak-110 twin fuselage conversion in a powerful air show performance.

MAFFS makes demo drop at Wild West Show

MAFFS demonstration drop

A Wyoming Air National Guard C-130 outfitted with a Modular Airborne FireFighting System (MAFFS) retardant delivery system made a demonstration drop at the Cheyenne, Wyoming Wild West Show. Photo: Master Sgt. Robert Trubia, 153rd Airlift Wing, July 24, 2019.

The MAFFS that convert a military aircraft into an air tanker can be installed in a C-130 in a matter of hours. The units hold up to 3,000 gallons of water or retardant that is forced out of the tanks by compressed air.

The MAFFS program consists of eight units located at four military bases in the western United States — Channel Islands in Southern California, Cheyenne, Colorado Springs, and Reno. Each base has two units.

The concept behind the MAFFS is to have surge capacity. The units can be activated when ongoing wildfires reduce the ability of the 13 large air tankers on federal exclusive use contracts to respond to new initial attack and extended attack fires.

The MAFFS aircraft can be activated by the Governors in the four states or the National Interagency Fire Center.

MAFFS test Colorado Springs
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. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Anthony Pham)

Video featuring annual training for MAFFS personnel

MAFFS retardant drop
Screengrab from the video below of a MAFFS retardant drop.

About 300 aviation personnel from the Air National Guard, U.S. Forest Service, and other firefighting agencies are participating this week in aerial wildland firefighting training and certification for Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System (MAFFS) personnel at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, Colorado. The MAFFS units, which can be slipped into a military C-130, are capable of dropping up to 3,000 gallons of fire retardant or water on a wildland fire.

This video produced May 9, 2019 includes footage from this weeks’ training plus shots from previous fire seasons.


Video by Tech. Sgt. Garrett Wake, 152nd Airlift Wing, Nevada Air National Guard.

MAFFS training being conducted this week in Colorado Springs

MAFFS
Air National Guardsmen with the 152nd Airlift Wing from Reno, Nevada drop water during the Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System training and recertification week in Colorado, May 6, 2019. U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Amber Sorsek.

About 300 aviation personnel from the Air National Guard, U.S. Forest Service, and other firefighting agencies are participating this week in aerial wildland firefighting training and certification for Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System (MAFFS) personnel. It is hosted by the Air Force Reserve’s 302nd Airlift Wing at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

“We are eager to join with our civilian and military partners this week and prepare for another challenging wildfire season,” said Col. James DeVere, 302nd Airlift Wing commander. “Training together is vital. We are able to battle wildfires as one seamless interagency team working with the U.S. Forest Service because of the training we do together.”

Training drops will be executed in nearby forests west of Colorado Springs using potable water. Rural residents in those areas may see low-flying C-130 aircraft and U.S. Forest Service lead planes throughout the week.

The 302nd Airlift Wing’s C-130 Hercules aircraft are equipped with the U.S. Forest Service’s MAFFS, which is capable of dropping up to 3,000 gallons of fire retardant or water in less than 10 seconds along a quarter-mile line. The system slides into the back of the military aircraft, and retardant is released through a nozzle on the left side through a modified paratroop door. MAFFS aircraft can be activated to supplement the U.S. Forest Service and the civilian air tanker program to slow the spread of wildland fires across the nation.

MAFFS
A U.S Forest Service lead plane releases smoke to signal where the Air National Guardsmen with the 152nd Airlift Wing from Reno, Nevada, will drop water during the Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System training and recertification in Colorado, May 6, 2019. U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Amber Sorsek.

The three Air National Guard wings tasked conducting MAFFS missioned include: the 146th Airlift Wing from Channel Islands, California, 152nd Airlift Wing from Reno, Nevada, and the 153rd Airlift Wing from Cheyenne, Wyoming. The 302nd Airlift Wing is the only Air Force Reserve unit executing the MAFFS mission. Each of the four wings usually have two slip-in MAFFS units in order to mobilize two firefighting C-130s along with a third C-130 hauling equipment and additional personnel.

The certification training, sponsored by the U.S. Forest Service, includes classroom sessions, flying and ground operations for Air Force aircrews, civilian lead plane pilots, and support personnel from the U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, and other state and federal firefighting agencies.

“Wildland fire management agencies have relied on MAFFS for 46 years to provide a surge capacity when commercial air tankers are fully committed or not readily available, as they frequently are during periods of high wildfire activity,” said Kim Christensen, deputy assistant director for operations for the U.S. Forest Service. “Training that includes all of the military and civilian personnel that work together when MAFFS are mobilized is critical to ensure that military aircraft fly safely and effectively and that they can be seamlessly integrated into wildfire suppression operations.”

Video of MAFFS C-130 dropping on Carr Fire

MAFFS C-130 Carr fire air tanker wildfire

The California Air National Guard shot this video of one of their Modular Airborne Fire Fighting Systems (MAFFS) C-130’s dropping retardant on the Carr Fire in Northern California July 31, 2018.

If you look closely you’ll see the lead plane produce smoke to mark the beginning of the drop.

MAFFS at work

Air Tanker 118

Above: Screenshot from the National Guard video below.

Two Air National Guard C-130’s have been working on wildfires in California for several weeks. They are temporarily outfitted with Modular Airborne FireFighting Systems (MAFFS) that can hold up to 3,000 gallons of fire retandant.

I believe this video was shot from MAFFS6 showing Coast Guard/USFS Tanker 118, an HC-130H, dropping on the River Fire east of Ukiah, California.  T-118, which is painted white, is borrowing one of the eight MAFFS systems purchased by the Forest Service that are normally reserved for military planes if they are needed to provide a surge capacity when additional air tankers are needed.