California will finally get additional airtankers

Gepubliceerd op 21 februari 2024 om 21:41

© Duncan Kirk

It is by now some five years ago that the US Congress told the US Air Force to convert seven surplus US Coast Guard C-130 aircraft into firefighting tankers for the state of California.

The USAF never finished the job, but now, thanks to the effort of a number of California senators, a solution is finally coming in sight. They added a provision in the 2024 defense spending bill to hand over the C-130s to Cal Fire immediately - whether they were finished or not.

Recently President Joe Biden signed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that authorised the transfer of the seven Lockheed Martin HC-130H Hercules aircraft from the US Coast Guard to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. 

California state officials are preparing for the wildfire season by acquiring and retrofitting seven C-130s.

According to Cal Fire, once the transfer of ownership is completed, 4,000-gallon internal tanks capable of holding fire retardant will be installed on the aircraft. It is most likeley that the 'new' airtankers will be equiped with the Aviation’s Retardant Aerial Delivery System (RADS), which can be installed on virtually any Hercules.

The RADS-XXL system, developed by competing aerial firefighting company Coulson, is half the cost of comparable systems - and one-sixth the weight - and it requires no additional crew or equipment. The RADS-XXL system was selected for the Hercules C-130 aircraft fleet operated earlier by Cal Fire.

Cal Fire expects to have the aircraft on the line and in use by fall of this year. The aircraft will be stationed at Cal Fire bases in Chico, Fresno, Paso Robles, Ramona, and Sacramento.

The former USCG HC-130Hs have already been noted for almost a year in the Cal Fire colours but without the civil N registration. The exact reason for this is not known. Five from the seven firefighting tankers have been marked with the three-digit Tanker number on the vertical stabilizer.

1706 (c/n 382-4996) and 1713 (382-5034)
T-116 (ex 1708, c/n 382-5002), T-117 (ex 1714, c/n 382-5035), T-118 (ex 1721, c/n 382-5121), T-119 (ex 1719, c/n 382-5107) and T-120 (ex 1709, c/n 382-5005)