RENO — The 152nd Airlift Wing, Nevada National Guard, is set to begin the process of outfitting its C-130 aircraft with U.S. Forest Service Modular Airborne Fire Fighting Systems (MAFFS) equipment for large-scale wildland firefighting missions across the nation, the National Guard Bureau announced this week.
The development of the MAFFS mission brings large-scale wildland firefighting capabilities to a Guard unit located in the largest national forest in the lower 48 states — the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest — prone to massive fires in recent years.
“The 152nd Airlift Wing, Nevada National Guard is the best choice to fulfill the MAFFS mission due to their aircrew experience and geographic area response capability,” the bureau said in a statement this week.
The 152nd will become one of four units nationwide with C-130 aircraft outfitted with MAFFS.
“This is another recognition of the capabilities and accomplishments of the men and women of the Nevada National Guard, the pride of Nevada,” Governor Brian Sandoval said. “This is good news for the High Rollers of the 152nd Airlift Wing, the state, recently fire-ravaged western regions and the nation.”
Since 1974, MAFFS — a fire retardant delivery system inserted into C-130 aircraft — has been a joint effort between the U.S. Forest Service and the Department of Defense.
The U.S. Forest Service owns MAFFS equipment and supplies retardant for firefighting. The Department of Defense provides C-130 aircraft, flight crews, and maintenance and support personnel to fly missions.
MAFFS delivers surge capability that can be used to boost wildfire suppression efforts. The equipment can discharge up to 3,000 gallons — 28,000 pounds — of retardant in less than five seconds, covering an area one-quarter of a mile long and 60 feet wide. Once discharged, it can be refilled and airborne in less than 20 minutes.
“Nevada is in a perfect location to service the vast majority of Western states due to its central location,” Nevada National Guard Adjutant General Brig. Gen. William Burks said. “This is huge for the High Rollers and shows that all of their hard work throughout the entire organization pays benefits in the long run.”
The 152nd is scheduled to begin the transition with U.S. Forest Service MAFFS training on May 1 at Channel Islands, Calif.
The transition is expected to take three to five fire seasons as the unit trains and prepares for the mission, the bureau said.
A planned conversion of an existing MAFFS unit, the 145th Airlift Wing, North Carolina Air National Guard from the C-130 to the C-17, prompted the bureau to evaluate existing C-130 Air National Guard units for a suitable replacement for the MAFFS mission.
All National Guard C-130 units were considered, the bureau said.
“This is a critical and challenging mission we’ve wanted for many years now,” said Col. Karl Stark, the commander of the 152nd Airlift Wing. “We are more than capable and ready for the responsibility this mission brings.”