July 18, 2012

MAFFS request modified for four C-130s

The U.S. Forest Service has modified its request for assistance for the Modular Airborne Fire Fighting Systems-equipped C-130 Hercules.

The new request, received late July 17, releases two of the six C-130s using MAFFS to assist with fires.

The C-130s have been stationed at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, and at Boise Air Terminal, Idaho, for the last week. The request for assistance was modified due to the decrease in fire activity in the West

The two aircraft from the 153rd Airlift Wing will return to their home station of Cheyenne, Wyo. The California Air National Guard’s two C-130s, from the 146th Airlift Wing, will move from Utah and begin operations in Boise, joining the 302nd Airlift Wing of the U.S. Air Force Reserve Command from Colorado Springs, Colo.

“Although the new request for assistance reduces the operational requirement down to four aircraft, the remaining MAFFS units will maintain their ability to quickly ramp up again if needed,” said Col. Jerry Champlin, the 153rd Air Expeditionary Group commander.

The MAFFS crews did not drop any retardant on fires over the weekend and made five drops on two fires July 17.

Since being activated June 25, the MAFFS fleet has completed more than 250 drops, releasing more than 641,000 gallons of retardant on Rocky Mountain-area fires.

MAFFS are operated by four military units: the 153rd Airlift Wing of the Wyoming Air National Guard; 146th Airlift Wing of the California Air National Guard; 145th Airlift Wing of the North Carolina Air National Guard; and the 302nd Airlift Wing of the U.S. Air Force Reserve Command.

Four airmen assigned to the 145th Airlift Wing died July 1 during a MAFFS mission assisting with firefighting efforts on the White Draw fire in South Dakota. The incident currently is under investigation.

The MAFFS program is a joint effort between the U.S. Forest Service and Department of Defense. The forest service owns the MAFFS equipment and supplies the retardant. DOD provides the C-130 aircraft, pilots, maintenance and support personnel to fly the mission.

MAFFS provides a surge capability that can be used to boost wildfire suppression efforts when commercial airtankers are fully committed or not readily available.

MAFFS is a self-contained aerial firefighting system owned by the U.S. Forest Service that can discharge 3,000 gallons of water or 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.

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