Two C-130 MAFFS air tankers relieved by another pair

MAFFS C-130
MAFFS C-130 training in Boise April 21, 2017. Photo by Bill Gabbert

After a week on the job the two California National Guard C-130 MAFFS air tankers that were activated on July 22 are being relieved as scheduled and will return to the 146th Airlift Wing at Channel Islands in southern California.

A Herc from Nevada Air National Guard’s 152nd Airlift Wing “High Rollers” deployed July 29 to Sacramento McClellan Airport. It will be joined by one from the Air Force Reserve’s 302 Airlift Wing out of Peterson Air Force Base at Colorado Springs.

The military C-130s use the Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System (MAFFS) which can deliver up to 3,000 gallons of fire retardant. The system slides into the back of the aircraft and retardant is sprayed under pressure through a nozzle in a modified troop door on the left side. MAFFS aircraft can be activated to supplement the civilian airtanker program to slow the spread of wildland fires.

fire wildfire Nevada Air National Guard C-130 MAFFS
A C-130 from Nevada Air National Guard’s 152nd Airlift Wing “High Rollers” during training in Boise April 20, 2020. Photo by Bill Gabbert.

Reno Air National Guard unit begins training with MAFFS

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maffs nevada

Above: The first 152nd C-130 equipped with a U.S. Forest Service Modular Airborne FireFighting System arrived Thursday, Sept. 8, 2016, at the Nevada Air National Guard Base in Reno. The unit completed its first fire fighting mission as co-pilots augmented with the Air Expeditionary Group the previous week. The 152nd was selected to become the new MAFFS unit in April. Photo by Tech. Sgt. Emerson Marcus September 8, 2016.

The Air National Guard unit at Reno completed its first training activation operating the U.S. Forest Service’s Modular Airborne FireFighting System last week and the first of the unit’s C-130s equipped for MAFFS arrived at the base Thursday, September 8.

In April the Reno 152nd Airlift Wing became one of the four bases designated to operate MAFFS units. They are replacing the 145th Airlift Wing of North Carolina that is transitioning from the C-130 to the C-17. The other MAFFS bases are at Cheyenne, Colorado Springs, and Channel Islands in California.

The USFS has 8 MAFFS units that can be slipped into a C-130 in just a few hours, converting it to a 3,000-gallon air tanker. Usually two of the units are at each of the four bases, but one is now being temporarily used in an HC-130H that was transferred from the Coast Guard to the USFS.

In recent weeks, 12 aircrew of the 152nd activated as part of the Air Expeditionary Group fighting wildland fires in Idaho, Nevada and Oregon.

The AEG – made up of military C-130 units operating MAFFS – flew 142 sorties, 125.5 flight hours, dispensing more than 3.5 million pounds of retardant on 165 drops during the month-long activation that began in early August.

“Nevada crews have fully embraced the MAFFS mission and are committed to getting full up as quickly and safely as possible,” said Col. David Herder, deputy AEG commander. “They have been stepping in to get training with the other units whenever possible. They have been a welcome addition to the MAFFS community.”

This fire season effectively started the 152nd’s co-pilot certification clock. Co-pilot certification could be completed prior to the 2018 fire season when the unit would enter certification as aircrew commanders. Once the aircrew commander certification is complete, they then begin certification as flight instructors and could begin autonomous fire fighting missions.

“The actual drops have been challenging and exhilarating,” said Lt. Col. Tony Machabee, acting 152nd Operations Group commander and the first member of the unit to co-pilot a MAFFS mission. “It’s a great feeling to see your immediate results whether we are dropping a protective line of retardant between the fire and someone’s property or dropping ‘mud’ (retardant mix) directly on flames leaping from the tops of trees in an effort to slow the fire’s progress.”