After a one-day standdown on July 2, the Air Force’s small fleet of Modular Airborne Firefighting System-equipped C-130s resumed flight operations to help battle wildfires in Colorado and several northwestern states. As of early morning on July 4 local time, these airplanes, which began operating on June 25, had conducted a total of 105 airdrops and discharged more than 270,000 gallons of fire retardant on the flames in parts of Colorado, Montana, South Dakota, and Wyoming, said US Northern Command officials in a release. These MAFFS C-130s are assigned to Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve Command units. They’ve been operating out of Peterson AFB, Colo., and Cheyenne, Wyo. The one-day suspension of flight operations came after the crash of one of these C-130s on July 1 during a firefighting mission in South Dakota that claimed the lives of four of the six crewmembers. (See our initial coverage.)
The Air Force overall reduced its size by 120 aircraft in fiscal year 2021, but kept about the same number of fighter, bomber and attack aircraft, according to data supplied by the service. The F-35 fleet saw the biggest increase while the B-1B bomber fleet saw the largest decline.