Tyndall leads the way in Air Force eco-conscious fire protection

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Zeeshan Naeem
  • 325th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

In 2024, Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, became the first Air Force installation to transition to the fluorine-free foam within its fire departments, effectively replacing the aqueous film-forming foam that contained Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances. The new foam is a primary component of a Department of Defense-wide effort to phase out PFAS-containing AFFF from land-based firefighting equipment.

The Air Force Civil Engineer Center began procuring F3 from the qualified products list in 2023. Qualified F3 products meet stringent firefighting performance standards set forth in a military specification that ensure the product is suitable for military use. The MILSPEC establishes performance requirements for how quickly and how effectively products need to extinguish a fire, which ensures the safety of servicemembers and firefighters in an emergency. AFCEC plans to replace AFFF, among the Air and Space Forces, in all non-tactical fire vehicles by October 2024.

“The new foams do not contain fluorine, and therefore do not contain PFAS. We understand PFAS, when released into the environment, is very persistent and does not break down easily,” said Robin Shaw, AFCEC Fire and Emergency division chief. “While its predecessor relied on fluorinated chemicals to create a barrier over the fuel, F3 operates by smothering the fire with a physical foam barrier, effectively preventing the ignition of fuel by depriving it of oxygen.”
The differences in how the new foam operates in fighting fire generates change in firefighting techniques. With AFFF, firefighters employed a “rainfall” technique to deploy foam and water through a hose at an arching angle. Now, with F3, firefighters shoot the foam directly at the base of the fire.

With new techniques comes a need for new training, and Tyndall is home to the 801st Rapid Engineer Deployable Heavy Operational Repair Squadron at its Silver Flag exercise site. This is the only dedicated training facility within the DoD that can use Jet A1 fuel to create a live-fire simulation of aircraft fires.

“We have a research center that we work with meticulously to provide training opportunities for service members who come to Silver Flag to witness the difference in effectiveness, as we transition to F3,” said Staff Sgt. Adam Van Lange, 801st REDHORSE fire protection cadre.

The switch from AFFF to F3 is a significant step for the Air Force, that prioritizes the safety of serve members and the environment.