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How Do You Convert a C-130 Into a Firefighting Aircraft?

MAFFS allows for rapid conversion of Hercs

A C-130H Hercules, from the 302nd Air Wing, Peterson AFB, makes a water drop Wednesday May 2, 2007 at the Albuquerque Air Tanker Base during annual MAFFS training. C-130 aircrews from the Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve are training with MAFFS (Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System) at the U.S. Forest Service's Albuquerque Air Tanker Base in New Mexico. Established by Congress in the early 1970's as a wildland fire protection program, MAFFS is a joint program with the Air National Guard, Air Force Reserve, and the U.S. Forest Service. The system was developed for installation in a Lockheed C-130 Hercules. Currently there are eight MAFFS units with two systems each at 153rd Airlift Wing at Cheyenne, WY, ANG, 146th AW, Port Hueneme, CA, ANG. 145th AW, Charlotte, NC, ANG, and this year's training host, the 302nd AW, Peterson AFB, Colorado Springs, CO Air Force Reserve. (U.S. Air Force photo by TSgt Rick Sforza, 4th Combat Camera Squadron)(Released)

It’s a well known fact that C-130s are one of the tools that firefighters use in their arsenal to fight wildfires.  But how do they convert a standard Hercules aircraft into a MAFFS airplane?

This footage, which was published on September 11th of 2015, shows the MAFFS being added to a pair of C-130 Hercules aircraft. MAFFS is an acronym for the Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System. To put it simply, MAFFS is a giant water/chemical tank loaded into the cargo hold. It holds about 2,700 gallons of water. This is the best weapon the military has to combat fire. MAFFS is used in the C-130 aircraft of the Colombian Air Force, the Brazilian Air Force, the Royal Moroccan Air Force, and the Royal Thai Air Force.  While the C-130 is not the only aircraft that can drop chemicals or water on a fire, it has an advantage in that there are many C-130s where as larger tankers like the DC-10 or 747 are more limited resources.

Members of the 153rd Airlift Wing of the Wyoming Air National Guard are preparing two C-130 aircraft in Cheyenne, Wyoming, for MAFFS missions in the Rocky Mountain region.

The MAFFS program was established by Congress after the Laguna fire of 1970 overwhelmed available aviation firefighting resources. The idea of stuffing cargo planes with water tanks was meant to integrate military air tankers into the national response system. Today, MAFFS equipment is stationed at eight locations throughout the United States.

The MAFFS consists of five pressurized, fire retardant water tanks. The system can disperse all 2,700 gallons of water in five seconds over a fire. This produces a fire line that is 60 feet wide and a quarter mile long. Not only that, but all that water can be reloaded in only eight minutes.

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