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These Are The Military Helicopters And Airlifters Fighting California Wildfires

Though Not As Big As Those 747 and DC-10 Tankers, They’re Still Doing a Huge Job

Official US Navy photograph

We’ve seen some very impressive footage of ginormous 747 and DC-10 aerial firefighting aircraft dropping fire retardant in areas affected by the California wildfires. United States Navy (USN) Sikorsky MH-60S Knighthawk helicopters are also dropping water directly onto fires using 320 gallon buckets suspended from cargo hooks under the fuselage. Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron THREE (HSC-3) Merlins and HSC-21 Blackjacks are flying such missions from Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton near Oceanside in California. This video, shot by Navy Mass Communication Specialist First Class Paolo Bayas and uploaded by YouTubers Gung Ho Vids, gives us a glimpse into the rotary-wing firefighting efforts.

Official US Navy photograph

Also working the fires are Bell UH-1Y Venom-equipped United States Marine Corps (USMC) Light Attack Helicopter Training Squadron 303 (HMLAT-303) Atlas and Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 267 (HMLA-267) Stingers. Each drop from these modernized Hueys amounts to more than 300 gallons of water. Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 462 (HMH-462) Heavy Haulers, who fly the Sikorsky CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter, are also flying water-bucket missions in the area dropping about 900 gallons of water per load.

Official US Marine Corps photograph

The 146th Airlift Wing, California Air National Guard (ANG), has equipped two of their Lockheed Martin C-130J Hercules airlifters with the Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System (MAFFS). The MAFFS system enables the five pressurized tanks aboard the C-130Js to put out about 2,700 gallons of fire-retardant slurry or water in five seconds. The 129th Rescue Wing, California ANG is on standby to provide rescue services centered around one of the Wing’s Lockheed MC-130P Combat Shadow rescue and recovery airlifters. The 129th Wing earned some well-deserved notoriety over the summer when they were instrumental in rescues in the wake of hurricane Harvey.

Official US Air Force photograph

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Bill Walton

Written by Bill Walton

Bill Walton is a life-long aviation enthusiast and expert in aircraft recognition. As a teenager Bill helped his engineer father build an award-winning T-18 homebuilt airplane in their Wisconsin basement. Bill is a freelance writer, an avid sailor, engineer, announcer, husband, father, uncle, mentor, coach, and Navy veteran. Bill lives north of Houston TX with his wife and son under the approach path to KDWH runway 17R, which means they get to look up at a lot of airplanes. A very good thing.

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