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Youngstown Wing Tests New Electronic Aerial Spray System

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Noah Tancer

When members of the 910th Airlift Wing returned to Hill Air Force Base, Utah, in March for their annual aerial spray mission at the Utah Test and Training Range, this year’s product sprayed just a bit faster out of the unit’s aerial spray-modified C-130H Hercules aircraft.

Based out of Youngstown Air Reserve Station, Ohio, the 910th brought its brand-new electronic modular aerial spray system along with a legacy spray system to create fire breaks for wildfire prevention and safe unexploded ordnance removal at the training range. It was the operational debut for the new electronic system.

As in previous years, the Reservists used an Environmental Protection Agency-approved product with biodegradable blue dye for swath tracking over the largest overland contiguous special-use airspace within the continental United States.

The electronic modular aerial spray system, or EMASS, conceptualized in the early 2000s, was rumored to have been birthed from notes drafted on a restaurant napkin after a successful yet problem-fraught aerial spray mission.

“It’s been a long time coming,” said Lt. Col. Ryan Cooley, the chief of aerial spray assigned to the 757th Airlift Squadron. “A lot of the valves that open and close on the legacy model are physical valves that you have to close by hand, whereas now a lot of the valves on the new system are controlled electronically.”

The legacy MASS is full of analog parts no longer mass produced, requiring expensive specialty orders to make repairs. Developed in the 1980s, before the peak of the computer age, the 910th Maintenance Squadron has kept the systems operational for a smooth transition into the electronic age of military aerial spray.

“With the EMASS, you program in what you need and the computer does what you want it to do,” said Staff Sgt. Zachary Wilson, an aerial spray maintenance technician assigned to the maintenance squadron. “That’s the biggest part, the computer is a game changer. What we can do now goes so much further than what we could do before. The possibilities are endless and we’re just getting started with it.”

Not only is the new EMASS smarter than its predecessor, it’s bigger. The legacy system has a maximum capacity of 2,000 gallons, flying missions at approximately 1,800 gallons to allow room for sloshing in the tank. The capacity of its successor is up to 3,500 gallons with the ability to fly missions at an estimated 3,000-gallon capacity. The legacy model is tried and true, whereas the new model has room to grow with things to learn and kinks to work out.

“We didn’t totally run the new system through its paces as far as how much product it can carry, but both performed pretty well,” Cooley said. “The old one’s tough. There are a lot of moving parts past their useful life, but our spray maintenance team does a phenomenal job keeping it running.” media:5:right:small]

One of the five legacy MASSs at the 910th AW was retired when the first EMASS was received. Moving forward, it will be a one-for-one swap as the new systems are introduced. Until then, both systems will continue to operate together until further operational testing is completed and the electronic system is verified to be compatible with C-130J Super Hercules aircraft. In late December 2022, Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall announced Youngstown as the preferred location to receive eight new C-130Js.

(Tancer is assigned to the 910th Airlift Wing public affairs office.)