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Air Force aerial firefighters train in New Mexico

5/3/2007 - KIRTLAND AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. (AFNEWS) -- C-130 Hercules aircraft dotted the sky over central New Mexico April 30 through May 2 as 300 Airmen prepared to help fight wild land fires that may break out this year.

Cibola National Forest officials and Airmen from Air Force Reserve Command's 302nd Airlift Wing based at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., hosted the annual training and recertification for military pilots flying firefighting missions.

The Air Force aircraft are equipped with the Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System. MAFFS units drop fire retardant or water on wild land fires. The U.S. Forest Service based the flight operations out of its Albuquerque Air Tanker Base.

Participating in the training were Airmen from the 302nd AW, the Air National Guard's 145th Airlift Wing from Charlotte/Douglas Airport, N.C.; the 146th Airlift Wing from Channel Islands Air National Guard Station, Calif.; and the 153rd Airlift Wing from Cheyenne Airport, Wyo.

Employees from civilian land management agencies, including the U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Indian Affairs and North Carolina State Forestry, took part in the training. The week included classroom and flight training for military flight crews, civilian lead plane pilots and various support people.

MAFFS is a cooperative effort between the military and civilian land management agencies. It provides additional airborne firefighting capability during periods of high wild land fire activity to help protect and safeguard people and property throughout the United States during the annual fire season.

The C-130s are equipped with special slide-in MAFFS units which allow them to drop up to 3,000 gallons of retardant on wild land fires.

The Air Force has a total of eight MAFFS units. The aircraft operate through U.S. Northern Command, which plans, organizes and executes homeland defense and civil support missions based on an agreement with the Department of Defense.

During the training, the MAFFS air tankers dropped about 500,000 gallons of potable water on drop sites in the Cibola National Forest.

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