While the Lockheed C-130 Hercules is best known for transporting personnel and cargo, this military workhorse is also used in the US for wildland firefighting. Three of the four military C-130 firefighting airlift wings — Colorado, Nevada and Wyoming, making up the Air Expeditionary Group — came together last week in Colorado, for a week-long annual training and certification program sponsored by the U.S. Forest Service. Around 300 people participated in the certification training, including both classroom sessions and flight operations
“We are eager to join up 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.”
The U.S. Forest Service’s large Modular Airborne Fire Fighting Systems (MAFFS) equipment — rolled into the back of a C-130 aircraft — can drop up to 3,000 gallons of water or fire retardant in six seconds. MAFFS are portable fire retardant delivery systems that can be inserted into military C-130 aircraft without major structural modifications to convert them into airtankers when needed. The MAFFS program was created by Congress in the early 1970s as a joint effort between the U.S. Forest Service and Department of Defense. The U.S. Forest Service owns the MAFFS equipment and supplies the fire retardant, while the DoD provides the C-130 aircraft, flight crews, and maintenance and support personnel to fly the missions.
“MAFFS have played a critical role in wildfire suppression for more than 40 years by providing 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. Over the past decade, military C-130s equipped with MAFFS delivered about 8 million gallons of fire retardant on wildfires around the U.S.
Participating Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve units include the 153rd Airlift Wing from Cheyenne, Wyoming; the 302nd Airlift Wing from Colorado Springs, Colorado; the 146th Airlift Wing from Port Hueneme, California; and the 152nd Airlift Wing from Reno, Nevada. Water drops for training were executed in forests west of Colorado Springs as seen in the image here.
“We get to perform a lot of valuable missions for the nation throughout the entire world,” DeVere said, “but this mission, protecting life and property of our own citizens, is extremely fulfilling.”