Members of the Air Force Reserve’s 302nd Airlift Wing, Wyoming Air National Guard’s 153rd Airlift Wing, and other firefighting agencies began a weeklong aerial wildland firefighting training and certification hosted at the Jeffco Airtanker Base in late April. Training drops with water is being executed in the nearby Arapaho, Roosevelt and Pike-San Isabel National Forests and Bureau of Land Management lands using potable water.

Residents in those areas may see low-flying C-130 aircraft and U.S. Forest Service lead planes throughout the week. MAFFS aircraft will load water from Jeffco and will start and end their days at their home units.

We are eager to join up with our civilian and military partners this week and prepare for another challenging wildfire season. Training together is vital. We are able to battle wildfires as one seamless interagency team working with the U.S. Forest Service because of the training we do together.

The 302nd Airlift Wing and 153rd Airlift Wing C-130 Hercules aircraft are equipped with the U.S. Forest Service’s Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System, which 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 supplement the Forest Service and the civilian airtanker program to slow or stop the spread of wildland fires across the nation. The three Air National Guard wings tasked with conducting MAFFS missions include: the 146th Airlift Wing from Channel Islands, California, 152nd Airlift Wing from Reno, Nevada, and the 153rd Airlift Wing from Cheyenne, Wyoming, The 302nd Airlift Wing, Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado, is the only Air Force Reserve unit executing the MAFFS mission.

The certification training, sponsored by the USDA Forest Service, includes classroom sessions, flying and ground operations for Air Force aircrews, civilian lead plane pilots and support personnel from the USDA Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management and other state and federal firefighting agencies.

Having military C-130s that can be converted into airtankers provides a critical “surge” capability that can be used to augment wildfire suppression efforts when the commercial airtankers are fully committed or not readily available.