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(Last Updated On: July 8, 2018)
Members of the 39th Aerial Port Squadron along with C-130 loadmasters assigned to the 731st Airlift Squadron push a U.S. Forest Service Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System unit onto a 302nd Airlift Wing C-130, Aug. 2, 2015, here. It takes about three hours to load and then configure the MAFFS unit in a C-130 aircraft. MAFFS units were loaded onto two Air Force Reserve C-130s in response to the U.S. Forest Service MAFFS activation in support of wildland firefighting efforts in California and the Northwestern U.S. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Nathan Federico)

About the C-130

The C-130 Hercules is regarded as one of the most versatile and successful tactical cargo transport aircraft ever manufactured. Its large straight wings, four powerful Rolls Royce T56 turboprop engines, and a panoramic view from the cockpit gazing upon the horizon and the ground below renders this robust machine an unprecedented level of efficiency, agility and most vital of all, a high degree of safety. The way Lockheed designed and made this beautiful machine back in the fifties, turned out to be such a robust design, that it paved way for an array of upgrades and modifications. The modifications led to the Hercules undertaking missions far beyond its primary intended role and became the most valued support element in the air. Salient adaptations and missions, for which the aircraft can be quickly modified to, are as follows:

  • Aerial Spraying
  • Aerial Research & Development
  • Parachute Jump Operations
  • Airdrop
  • Aerial Refueling
  • Aerial Firefighting

Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System [MAFFS]

Congress The Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System was conceived and funded by the US Congress after the government was overwhelmed by the fire incident which happened in Laguna in 1970. The government ground mobilized resources were simply inefficient and unable to control fires over a large spread area.

The Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System or [MAFFS] is a self-contained system which is deployed for the purpose of aerial firefighting. The system is modular in the sense that it contains several fire-retardant tanks, which can be configured depending upon the scale of the fire. The whole system once configured is simply loaded through the main ramp/cargo door of the C-130, with the nozzle extending from either one of the cargo/paratrop doors at the rear of the aircraft. Within the US, the highly effective aerial fire fighting plane can be easily deployed by the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) when a large scale fire breaks out. The USFS initially utilizes civilian air tanker fleet to combat the fires, however, if unable to control the large spread/scale of the fires, it then reaches out to the Air Force Reserve and the  Air National Guard to complement the fire fighting efforts of the civilian air tanker fleet..

In United States, the MAFFs equipped C-130s are available at eight US Air Force bases. The MAFFS units are on a 24-Hrs standby in case called in by the USFS to come into action over a designate fire struck area.

To narrate a successful mission undertaken by the MAFFs in recent past, was the US 1994 incident of fires which took many lives and is considered to be one of the deadliest of that decade. The MAFFS equipped airplanes were swung into action and four airlift wings were immediately activated to aid in fire fighting efforts with the integrated Airborne Fire Fighting System. The planes sprayed approximately 51,000,000 pounds of fire retardant material over the large spread fire area. To control the fires, the MAFFS units undertook more than   2,000 fire fighting missions.

Even today within the US mainland territory, the MAFFS integrated C-130s are positioned on airports or air bases near the western states, so they may quickly reach wildfire affected areas within minimum time. Over and above the missions undetaken Besides undertaking missions in mainland USA, the MAFFS C-130s on several occasions have been called upon international fire fighting missions as well, in countries like Indonesia, Mexico and certain regions of Europe.

The MAFFS crews undergo a very rigorous training every year with their counterparts in the  U.S. Forest Service (USFS) MAFFS trained personnel. The training helps all MAFFS equipped C-130 units and USFS personnel to lead a coordinated effort when combating large-scale fires.


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