Forest Service requests additional military air tankers to fight wildland fires

By NORAD and USNORTHCOM Public Affairs | June 23, 2013

BOISE, Idaho – The U.S. Forest Service (USFS), through the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) here, has requested the activation of two additional Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System-equipped (MAFFS) military C-130 aircraft to assist in battling wildland fires.

By Sunday afternoon, June 23, two aircraft from the 146th Airlift Wing, California Air National Guard, based in Port Hueneme, Calif., at Channel Islands Air National Guard Station, will deploy to Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado Springs, Colo. They will join two C-130s from the 302nd Airlift Wing, U.S. Air Force Reserve Command, based at Peterson, which have been engaged in aerial firefighting for more than a week. The two California aircraft will bring the MAFFS fleet to four airplanes.

The request came due to an increase in wildland fire activity in Southern Colorado and neighboring states and the significant fire potential forecast for the coming week.

MAFFS initially activated June 11 to assist in fighting forest fires in Southern Colorado after the USFS sent a request for assistance to the Department of Defense (DoD) though U.S. Northern Command. Since activating, MAFFS aircraft have made 36 drops using 93,830 gallons of fire retardant.

MAFFS is a self-contained aerial firefighting system owned by the USFS. MAFFS modules are loaded into the cargo bays of military C-130 aircraft. Led by small USFS planes, military aircrews can discharge 3,000 gallons of water or fire retardant from the MAFFS modules along the leading edge of a forest fire in less than five seconds and cover an area a quarter of a mile long by 100 feet wide. Once the load is discharged, ground crews at a MAFFS tanker base can refill the modules in less than 12 minutes.

A joint DoD and USFS program, MAFFS provides aerial firefighting resources when commercial and private air tankers are no longer able to meet the needs of the Forest Service. A military Air Expeditionary Group (Provisional) – Wildland Fire Fighting (AEG (P)–WFF) exercises control over the MAFFS resources at the direction of the USFS.

Four C-130 units perform the MAFFS mission, each providing two MAFFS-capable aircraft and the air and ground crews needed to operate them. They are the 145th Airlift Wing, North Carolina Air National Guard; 146th Airlift Wing, California Air National Guard; 153rd Airlift Wing, Wyoming Air National Guard; and the 302nd Airlift Wing, Air Force Reserve Command, in Colorado.

AEG Public Affairs: Lt. Col. Robert Carver, robert.n.carver1.mil@mail.mil, 919-323-5416