Udall Urges Quick Upgrades for Forest Service-Bound C-130s

Sen. Mark Udall (D-Col.) has asked Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James to expedite upgrades to C-130H aircraft slated for transfer to the US Forest Service, according to a March 13 letter from Udall to James. “We are in an era of modern mega-fires and my state has repeatedly broken records in recent years for the largest and most devastating fires in Colorado’s history,” wrote Udall. “Projections for future fire seasons and the volume of hazardous fuels on the landscape make me extremely concerned.” Under the Fiscal 2014 Defense Authorization Act, the Air Force will transfer 14 C-27J Spartans to the US Coast Guard. In exchange for those aircraft, USCG will transfer seven of its HC-130s to the Forest Service for conversion to firefighting tankers. However, the Air Force will first take ownership of those aircraft so it can make the necessary firefighting modifications. Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek told the Daily Report a detailed cost estimate for these efforts is still being developed, but the “FY ’14 NDAA caps AF costs at $5 million per aircraft to procure and integrate a gravity-drop aerial retardant dispersal system and $130 million total for all modifications, unless the Secretary of Agriculture provides additional funding.”