Tester pushing Air Force to fund construction project at 120th Airlift Wing

Sen. Jon Tester is pushing the Air Force to make the 120th Airlift Wing a higher priority for military construction in the coming years.

The unit needs additional ramp space to properly house the unit’s eight C-130s. The ramp was built for fighter jets, which are considerable smaller than the cargo planes.

The Air Force currently has the estimated $9 million project slated for fiscal year 2023, but during a May budget hearing Tester asked Air Force leaders to consider funding the project sooner.

“If there’s any way to move that up…I think it’s important,” Tester told Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson during the hearing.

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On May 31, Tester sent a letter to Wilson expressing his concern about delaying the project.

“At the time of the Great Falls, Montana conversion from F-15 aircraft to C-130 aircraft, the ramp was not adequate, but it was within acceptable Federal Aviation Administration standards. Recently modified FAA parameters make the parking situation for the unit’s eight C- 130 aircraft on the existing ramp particularly difficult,” Tester wrote. “The Air National Guard has expressed the best way to resolve and alleviate this impediment is to construct additional ramp space.”

Wilson told Tester that the project was the No. 5 unfunded priority for Air National Guard military construction funds.

In his letter, Tester wrote that the project has already gone through design and “I therefore request you provide me with a way forward to ensure the successful completion of our C-130 apron project well in advance of the current fiscal year 2023 programmed timeline.”

Jon is pushing the Air Force Secretary to prioritize the completion of the C-130 apron project before 2023 to ensure that the ramp is in full compliance with the FAA.

Wilson told Tester that in the wake of sequestration, the Air Force fell behind on infrastructure needs due to the lack of funding.

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In answering another senator’s question about F-35 basing, Wilson said that the Air Force has gone from having 134 fighter units in 1991 to 56 fighter squadrons and that some states no longer have any flying missions.

During the same hearing, Sen. Steve Daines asked about basing the new B-21 bomber and Wilson said the plan is to send them to existing bomber bases. She said it would be costly to send bombers to bases that don’t currently have bomber units, to the tune of $450 million to install the needed infrastructure.

Air Force officials told The Electric several times this year that the service has no plans to reactivate the runway at Malmstrom Air Force Base.