U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, joined Senate colleagues in a bipartisan call on House and Senate Armed Services Committee leadership to ensure the final Fiscal Year 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA)includes language to maintain the nation’s inventory of C-130 aircraft. Both Francis S. Gabreski and Stratton Air National Guard bases have C-130 wings, which provide experienced tactical airlift capability. Last month it was reported that the Air Force was considering reductions of the C-130 fleet. However, potential reductions could affect critical C-130 missions, including supporting humanitarian and disaster relief and assisting in the coronavirus response.
“Reducing the number of C-130 aircraft would handicap NYANG and our nation’s ability to defend American interests, provide global humanitarian relief, and address domestic challenges,” said Senator Gillibrand. “These aircraft are an essential asset to Stratton ANG and Gabreski ANG and Congress must ensure that bases with C-130 expertise, in New York and across the country, remain fully equipped. As the Air Force looks to the future, it’s critical that the C-130 fleet is protected, which is why I’m pushing Congress to ensure this language is maintained in the final NDAA. I’m proud to work with my colleagues across the aisle to support our nation’s military readiness.”
The C-130 aircraft at Gabreski ANG have facilitated rescue missions and provided in-flight patient care in response to contingencies and humanitarian emergencies. The 106th Rescue Wing has been responsible for humanitarian assistance operations, disaster response, emergency aeromedical evacuation and noncombatant evacuation operations.
Additionally, Stratton ANG houses ski-equipped C-130s, the LC-130H Hercules “Skibird.” Over recent years, Russia and China have increased engagement in the Arctic region and solidified the importance of these aircraft, which are the only ski-equipped heavy airlift operated by the Department of Defense. These aircraft provide critical capability and protect American interests and implement U.S. policy across the Arctic and Antarctic regions. The LC-130’s at Stratton ANG have supported important missions in Greenland, Canada, Iceland, and more.
Full text of the letter can be found here and below.
Dear Chairmen and Ranking Members:
We write in support of House Section 1043 which would require the Air Force maintain a Total Aircraft Inventory (TAI) of 292 C-130 aircraft in the final Fiscal Year 2021 National Defense Authorization Act. As Senators from states that have Air National Guard (ANG) C-130 wings, we are deeply concerned by the effects a lower minimum number of C-130s would have.
Our Air National Guard C-130 flying wings provide nearly half of the Air Force’s tactical airlift capability. For more than 50 years, we have brought Americans into combat, provided humanitarian relief around the globe, and supported domestic response throughout the nation. As the Air Force proposes changes to align our force structure with the National Defense Strategy (NDS), it is vitally important we do not trade experience and know-how in pursuit of expensive, less defined capabilities.
The Senate’s proposed language takes the approach of setting a minimum number of C-130 aircraft in the fleet by adopting a Primary Mission Aircraft Inventory (PMAI) of 230 aircraft. Unlike the House approach, mandating PMAI alone does not account for training aircraft inventory requirements or backup aircraft needed to support maintenance inspection and depot requirements. This disconnect could hamper the ANG’s readiness and training capabilities due to a potential lack of training assets and extended maintenance downtime. The House’s proposed TAI of 292 C-130s sets an aircraft minimum that accounts for all aircraft, including the training and maintenance needs of the C-130 fleet. In fact, the 2018 Mobility Capabilities and Requirements Study recommended a TAI of 300 C-130s to support combatant commanders’ wartime mobility requirements.
Further, House Section 1043 is supported by 14 governors from states whose ANGs have C-130 flying missions. As these governors highlighted in a recent letter to your committees, Section 1043 would ensure that their ANG wings can continue to support the nation’s essential worldwide and domestic contingencies. As such, the 292 C-130 TAI would allow the ANG to support the NDS without inhibiting the Guard’s unique domestic missions responding to natural disasters and other emergencies.
The ANG C-130 fleet has been the backbone of our tactical airlift capability for a generation. Our ANG wings have built experience and expertise through repeated deployments and domestic operations. Hard choices will be required as we restructure the Air Force to face future foreign and domestic challenges. Therefore, we must make informed, data driven, decisions as we manage the C-130 fleet. For these reasons, we strongly urge you to incorporate House Section 1043 supporting a TAI of 292 C-130 Aircraft in the final Fiscal Year 2021 National Defense Authorization Act.