Military News

Thursday, September 03, 2015

Forest Service firefighting arsenal getting a boost from ANG, Coast Guard

by Jerry Stoddard

9/3/2015 - JOINT BASE MARYLAND, Md. -- Airmen from the Wyoming Air National Guard's 153rd Airlift Wing recently began training the U.S. Forest Service in the use of the ANG's aerial firefighting system at McLellan Airfield, California.

In April, the Forest Service acquired the first of seven HC-130H aircraft authorized by Congress to be transferred from the Coast Guard for use in wildfire suppression.

"The 153rd Airlift Wing is proud of the 40 year partnership we have with the U.S. Forest Service." said Col. Bradley A. Swanson, 153 AW commander, "The MAFFS mission is an excellent example of the dual-use value of the Air National Guard and we are extremely pleased to be able to leverage our experience and our long-standing relationship with the USFS to provide this critical training. The unique firefighting capability provided by working together allows us to assist communities throughout the country when they're in need."

The 153rd's instructor team is training Forest Service aircrews in the use and operation of the Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System, or MAFFS, which is used to drop water or fire retardant onto a wild fire from an altitude of about 150 feet. Using the MAFFS system will allows the forest Service to rapidly integrate the new aircraft into their existing fleet.

Training conducted by the 153rd Airmen consisted of 8 hours of ground training, followed by 12 hours of airborne training over the course of multiple flights. Topics covered include the MAFFS system, emergency procedures, weather avoidance, aircraft performance and mountain flying.

"MAFFS is one of the most rewarding missions we accomplish as Guardsmen because it directly supports the homeland and demonstrates our domestic response ability," said Lt Col Todd Davis, MAFFS instructor pilot and 153rd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron commander. "This is a true interagency response between the Guard and Forest Service; it gives each of us a great sense of accomplishment to be able to assist in adding to their aerial firefighting capability."

The Forest Service plans to use MAFFS through the 2015 and 2016 fire seasons. By 2019, all seven aircraft are scheduled to be delivered to the Forest Service and converted to a gravity-fed firefighting system. The MAFFS equipment will then be returned to the Air National Guard inventory in order to continue their mission of providing support in a surge capacity.

The 153rd Airlift Wing has been operating MAFFS-equipped aircraft since 1975.

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