146th Airlift Wing, Public Affairs
CHANNEL ISLANDS AIR NATIONAL GUARD STATION, Calif. – Two C-130J Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System equipped aircraft assigned to the California Military Department's 146th Airlift Wing and the Air Force Reserve’s 302nd Airlift Wing, Colorado Springs, are mobilizing to Klamath Falls Airtanker Base by means of the U.S. Forest Service’s extension request for assistance for aerial firefighting support assets assigned to the Department of Defense.
First Air Force (Air Forces Northern), U.S. Northern Command’s Air Component Command, oversees the Department of Defenses’ aerial firefighting MAFFS program, which offers a “surge” capability to the United States Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service that can be used to boost wildfire suppression efforts when contracted airtankers are fully committed or not readily available.
The extension for continued MAFFS assets comes as the United States continues to undergo increased major fire incidents requiring heavy aerial firefighting tanker support with over 20,404 personnel now supporting 58 of the active large wildland fires across the continental United States. The initial activation for MAFFS assets took place in early August of 2023, which saw the 302AW and the Wyoming Air National Guard’s 153rd Airlift Wing delivering the first round of aerial firefighting sorties in conjunction with the U.S. Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, and the Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Shortly after the Nevada Air National Guard’s 152nd Airlift Wing has swapped in to replace maintenance and aircrews from the previous wing’s supporting the MAFFS mission. As of August 30, 2023, all four of the U.S. Air Force’s component MAFFS wings will have traversed to Klamath Falls Airtanker Base, as the MAFFS Airmen from the Hollywood Guard and the 302AW continue to support wildfire suppression efforts during the MAFFS program’s 50th anniversary. As of August 29, MAFFS has completed over 60 aerial firefighting sorties, providing 64 fire retardant drops that has accumulated over 161 thousand gallons, equaling 1.4 million pounds.
Commander for the 146th Airlift Wing, California Military Department Air National Guard Col. Christopher F. Dougherty, says his wing is always ready to support wildfire suppression efforts and that the time-tested MAFFS program is in good hands.
“We are eager to continue this support for the 2023 wildland firefighting season. Our 146th Airmen are fully trained and stand ready to respond. I’m very proud of the airmen involved in the MAFFS program, and I’m very happy to be able to work with such great partners. The enduring partnership between the U.S. Forest Service, Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve is truly special. Our unwavering commitment to supporting the people of our states and nation in times of natural disaster has been demonstrated repeatedly over the past 50 years and will continue well into the future.” said Dougherty.
For the last 50 years the DoD has chosen only one of its aircraft to support the MAFFS mission, the military C-130 aircraft, which original design and specification began in 1951 that currently remains in production. The C-130 Hercules aircraft that are assigned to the MAFFS program 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 on the rear left side. MAFFS aircraft can be activated to provide a critical “surge” capability to help slow or stop the spread of wildland fires. MAFFS aircraft are only activated when all commercial airtankers that are part of the national airtanker fleet are fully committed or not readily available.
The National Interagency Fire Center is the nation's support center for wildland firefighting. Eight different agencies and organizations are part of NIFC, including the Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Indian Affairs, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service, National Weather Service, U.S. Fire Administration, National Association of State Foresters, and state emergency response agencies.