The C-130 is a very versatile airplane. Think of using variants of cargo aircraft as an early example of a plug-and-play philosophy. One system tailored to the C-130 is the MAFFS. Firefighting air attack assets are expensive, and most of the year aren’t really needed. That means there is never a very large fleet of them. But when they are needed, they are really needed. That slim margin lead the US Forest Service to team up with the Air National Guard and the Air Force Reserve to design a capability to utilize C-130s for dropping retardant.
That’s actually a somewhat harder challenge than you’d first think. First, the entire package had to be fit into the C-130 fuselage. More importantly, unlike dedicated fire bombers, it had to be done with no modifications needed to the Herc. After all, when they’re not dropping retardant, the Air Force has other missions for them.
The original MAFFS had a 2700 gallon tank that discharged through pipes out the back ramp of the C-130. The current MAFFS II discharges its pressurized load via a pipe fitting through the port side troop door.
Only a handful of airlift wings are slated for MAFFS operations (and not all the crews and aircraft in those wings use it). It has enjoyed some foreign sales. Interestingly, the MAFFS belongs to the USFS, which is why the trailers are painted in their shade of green, and not the typical, darker Air Force dark green.
The pink markings are temporary (water colors!) to better enable the lead planes and attack coordinators identify individual aircraft.