The U.S. Forest Service has added a “next generation airtanker” to their fleet of firefighting aircraft, with the new plane cleared as of Friday to take on local wildfires.
Announced in a press release from the Forest Service, Tanker 118, as the new plane has been designated, was acquired from the U.S. Coast Guard as part of a federal program transferring seven Lockheed HC-130Hs to the Forest Service. Tanker 118 was the first of the seven, with its acquisition made possible through the 2014 National Defense Authorization Act.
“The Coast Guard is very happy with the outstanding cooperation we have experienced with the Forest Service in establishing this first-of-its-kind program for our service,” said Cmdr. Michael Frawley, chief of Aeronautical Engineering, Coast Guard Headquarters. “We look forward to a strong partnership that supports the Forest Service in achieving safe and effective wildfire suppression missions in the coming years.”
Tanker 118 is currently based at Forest Service Air Station McClellan in Sacramento, Calif., where it spent June receiving maintenance and the installation and testing of its modular airborne firefighting system, which allows it to deploy fire suppressant on wildfires.
The release also stated Tanker 118 is expected to remain at the base for around two years while a “systematic search for a permanent base of operations” for it and its six companions is under way.
The release added the Forest Service and the Coast Guard will jointly own Tanker 118 and share in its maintenance and management.
Tanker 118 brings the total of Forest Service airtankers available full-time for wildfire suppression this fire season to 22, according to the release. The next HC-130H is expected to be transferred to Sacramento this October, where it is will serve as a training aircraft. All seven are expected to be transferred by 2019.