The U.S. Air Force (USAF) has deployed one Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System (MAFFS)-equipped C-130 Hercules aircraft and reservists from the Air Force Reserve Command (AFRC) 302nd Airlift Wing to California on Aug. 8.
The reservists join the Department of Defense MAFFS Air Expeditionary Group replacing one of the four currently activated DoD MAFFS-equipped C-130s and aircrews conducting fire suppression missions on record-setting fires in California.
According Col. James DeVere, MAFFS Air Expeditionary Group and 302nd AW commander, the MAFFS-equipped C-130s have flown more than 150 fire suppression sorties including support to California’s Carr and Mendocino fires since beginning MAFFS operations at McClellan Airtanker base in northern California, July 26.
This is the second time the 302nd AW C-130s and Reserve aircrews have been activated to support aerial fire suppression missions using the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service (USFS) MAFFS this year. The first activation took place early in July supporting fire suppression efforts in Colorado.
On July 27, the National Multi-Agency Coordination Group raised the National Preparedness Level to the highest level on its 1 to 5 scale due to growth of existing and new fires in California, the Great Basin and Northwest geographic areas.
The DoD MAFFS-equipped C-130s are operated by four military airlift wings: The California Air National Guard’s 146th AW; the Nevada ANG’s 152nd AW; the Wyoming ANG’s 153rd AW; and the Air Force Reserve’s 302nd AW. They are considered a “24-hour resource”, meaning that when activated, it is expected that it will take 24 hours for the aircraft to arrive on scene, as the C-130s have to be pulled from their regular military duties and fitted with the MAFFS equipment.
The units are owned by the USFS and, when installed in a C-130, can discharge up to 3,000 gallons of fire retardant in less than five seconds, covering an area one-quarter of a mile long by 100 feet wide. Once the load is discharged, it can be refilled in less than 12 minutes.
The DoD, through U.S. Northern Command at Peterson AFB, provides unique military support to firefighting efforts when requested by the National Interagency Fire Center and approved by the Secretary of Defense. These diverse mission assets are prepared to respond quickly and effectively to protect lives, property, critical infrastructure and natural resources, and can include, but are not limited to, MAFFS, military helicopters and ground forces capable of supporting firefighting efforts.
The Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System is also used on the Colombian Air Force, Brazilian Air Force, Royal Moroccan Air Force and the Royal Thai Air Force C-130s. It was also formerly used in the Portuguese Air Force C-130s.