Great Falls not selected for new C-130 model aircraft; Tester asks Air Force for more information regarding basing decision

The Air Force announced Nov. 24 that the Montana Air National Guard was not among the bases selected to receive new C-130J aircraft to replace the older C-130H models currently being flown by the 120th Airlift Wing of the Montana Air National Guard.

The Air Force selected bases in Texas, Kentucky and West Virginia and announced Georgia as the preferred state to base future aircraft that haven’t yet been authorized or procured, according to a letter Sen. Jon Tester sent today to Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett.

Air Force spokeswoman Sarah Fiocco told The Electric that the Air Force has selected Louisville Air National Guard Base in Kentucky; McLaughlin ANGB in West Virginia; and Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base in Texas; and Savannah Air National Guard Base in Georgia, “as the preferred locations to receive C-130J aircraft to replace their aging C-130Hs, pending the outcome of environmental assessments.”

Air Force delays basing decision for newer model cargo planes

In his letter, Tester wrote, “I am concerned that, rather than prioritizing utility for the Air Force or cost-effectiveness, politics played a significant role in this process. I ask that the Air Force provide a full and open accounting to Congress of all potential locations for this basing decision, the costs associated with basing at those potential locations, and a thorough explanation of the utility that new C-130J aircraft would provide to each location and to the overall mission of the Air Force. Additionally I ask that the Air Force provide to Congress an examination of this decision-making process, to make transparent what factors weighed more heavily than others in this decision. This criteria is important to establish public faith that these decisions were made solely based on our national security interests.”

The 120th Airlift Wing of the Montana Air National Guard was one of eight bases nationwide on the shortlist for the newer planes.

Montana on shortlist to receive new C-130 aircraft

In October, Tester said the Air Force had delayed the basing decision until after the election. At the, an Air Force spokesperson told The Electric that it was still going through “the strategic basing process” but did not give address the reasoning for the delay.

The Air Force is planning to select three of the Guard’s current C-130H units to receive the new planes as it reduces its overall C-130 inventory.

Great Falls considered for new Air Force mission

Tester told The Electric earlier this year that the Air Force has plans to shutter four cargo units over the next five years and if the 120th doesn’t get the new aircraft, Montana could be considered to lose the cargo mission altogether.

In his Nov. 24 letter to Barrett, Tester wrote, “I understand that limited resources create numerous difficulties when making basing decisions for the nation, but we owe it to our men and women in uniform to provide a full and transparent justification for decisions that will dramatically impact their mission – particularly when they are continually being asked to do more with less.”

Malmstrom, 120th Airlift Wing update city on construction projects, operations

Earlier in November, Sen. Steve Daines asked the Senate and House Armed Services Committee leadership to maintain a minimum inventory of 292 C-130 aircraft, including those used by the 120th Airlift Wing, in the upcoming National Defense Authorization Act. According to a Daines release, maintaining that inventory of aircraft is needed to ensure those units can conduct flight training, allow for more backup aircraft and allow for more flexibility for maintenance and deport periods.

In Tester’s letter to Barrett, the Air Force secretary, he wrote that the Montana Air National Guard operate “the oldest C-130Hs in the entire Air Force inventory. Now that the Air Force’s fleet reductions are starting to take effect, they are now being asked to work with fewer planes than ever before. So assuming the execution of this new basing decision proceeds, I ask that the Air Force provide newer C-130H aircraft for the Montana National Guard, which can be sourced from one of the units set to receive C-130J aircraft.”

The three selected sites, will eventually be home to a combined 24 aircraft, replacing older C-130H aircraft.

Candidate sites included:

  • Bradley Air Guard Station, Connecticut (103rd Airlift Wing);
  • Savannah Air Guard Station, Georgia (165th Airlift Wing);
  • Peoria Air Guard Station, Illinois (182nd Airlift Wing);
  • Louisville Air Guard Station, Kentucky (123rd Airlift Wing);
  • Great Falls Air Guard Station, Montana (120th Airlift Wing);
  • Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Fort Worth, Texas (136th Airlift Wing);
  • Yeager Air Guard Station, West Virginia (130th Airlift Wing); and
  • Cheyenne Air Guard Station, Wyoming (153rd Airlift Wing).

During site surveys, Air Force teams looked at mission, capacity, cost and environmental factors for each location, according to a spokesman for the Air National Guard. The candidate sites were selected by the Air National Guard and approved by the Air Force secretary.