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MAFFS-enabled C-130 aircraft assisting fire suppression efforts in the Northwestern United States

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Thomas Cox

Two modular airborne firefighting systems (MAFFS)-enabled U.S. Air Force C-130 aircraft arrived at Boise Tanker Base, Idaho, September 9, 2022. One C-130H Hercules from the Nevada Air National Guard’s 152nd Airlift Wing and one C-130J Super Hercules from the California Air National Guard’s 146th Airlift Wing were called up to assist with wildland firefighting efforts due to increased fire activity in the Northwestern United States.

The request for support came from the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) to the Department of Defense’s U.S. Northern Command, the major command that exercises operational control of the aircraft through U.S. Air Forces Northern (AFNORTH). The National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) is the agency that assigns the aircraft to airtanker bases and assign the aircraft missions.

As of September 12, 2022, the MAFFS crews have flown a total of four sorties and dropped 11,556 gallons of retardant in support of suppression efforts for the Jordan Creek Fire in eastern Oregon.

These efforts contributed to the fire’s containment and restriction of spread as it was no longer being reported on any situation reports regarding active wildland fires.

"We take to heart our team's effort to help protect property and critical infrastructure, with the ultimate goal of saving lives," said Lt. Gen. Kirk Pierce, commander, First Air Force - Air Forces Northern (AFNORTH). "Our MAFFS-trained team of professionals completed rigorous annual aerial wildland firefighting training in April with the USDA Forest Service to ensure they were fully prepared for the wildfire season."

In addition to the 146th and 152nd Airlift Wings, MAFFS program aircraft are also from the Air Force Reserve Command’s 302nd Airlift Wing, Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado and the Air National Guard’s 153rd Airlift Wing, Cheyenne, Wyoming.

The C-130 aircraft are equipped with the U.S. Forest Service’s (USFS) MAFFS, can drop up to 3,000 gallons of fire retardant in less than 10 seconds across a quarter-mile line. The system slides into the back of the military aircraft, and retardant is released through a nozzle that is outfitted out of the rear left paratroop door.

The number of Modular Airborne Fire Fighting Systems (MAFFS) equipped aircraft flights each year varies with wildland fire activity. Over the last 14 years, federally activated, military C-130s equipped with MAFFS have delivered more than 10 million gallons of fire retardant on wildland fires, an average of 757,000 gallons per year. In 2021, all eight aircraft were activated to federalized status during the second-busiest fire season in 49 years.

“We've trained and prepared well to be called into action this fire season,” said Col. Evan Kirkwood, 152nd Air Expeditionary Group MAFFS commander. “As citizen Airmen, we are always honored to help our community, state and nation. Last year was an unprecedented fire year and I continue to be humbled by the outstanding work showcased by the amazing Airmen I serve with. Our ability to continue contributing to this vital mission is only made possible by the outstanding interagency teamwork with all other agencies involved.”