Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, today urged the Air Force to deliver C-17s equipped with extended range (ER) fuel tanks to Stewart Air National Guard Base. In her letter to Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley, Senator Gillibrand asked that they review and expedite the Air Force’s scheduled upgrades that would allow the 105th Airlift Wing’s fleet to fully participate in defense and homeland security mission sets. Senator Gillibrand has been a staunch advocate of Stewart Air National Guard Base.
“Receiving this upgrade to the C-17 fleet is critical to our defense and homeland security operations, as well as the strength of Stewart Air National Guard Base,” Senator Gillibrand said. “As one of the Hudson Valley’s largest employers, generating over $200 million in economic activity for the region, we need to strengthen our equipment and mission here at Stewart. Waiting another six years for this upgrade is unacceptable.”
The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) is beginning to implement its plan to cut $487 billion from its budget over the next decade. As part of that plan, the Department has proposed future base closure rounds, and the Air Force has released its restructuring plan to retire a number of Air National Guard and Reserve aircraft. Senator Gillibrand is working hard to protect and enhance New York’s Air National Guard bases and military installations, and put them in a strong position to attract new aircraft and new missions.
ER Fuel Tanks would allow Stewart Air National Guard Base to support the full range of C-17 missions, which include theater direct delivery, aeromedical evacuation and homeland security missions.
In 2010, Senator Gillibrand worked to ensure that Stewart Air National Guard Base was the preferred choice for C-17 missions. The move coincided with the base receiving millions in funding in the FY 2011 defense authorization bill. As a result in 2011, Stewart Air National Guard Base received five C-17s, with delivery of the last four aircraft scheduled for 2012.
Currently, Stewart Air National Guard Base is the only Airlift Wing in New York and only Air National Guard Base on the East Coast that is equipped with C-17s, and is set to receive nine C-17 air frames that are not equipped with ER capabilities. Stewart Air National Guard Base has already received seven non-ER airframes. In her letter to Secretary Donley, Senator Gillibrand requested that four airframes stationed at Stewart be equipped with ER fuel tanks.
Senator Gillibrand’s full letter to Air Force Secretary Michael Donley:
Dear Secretary Donley,
I write to you today to request a review of the Air Force’s upgrade schedule for Extended Range Fuel Tanks (ER) in the C-17 airframe.
It is my understanding that 66 airframes still have non-ER tanks, 9 of which are being assigned to the 105th Airlift Wing located at Stewart Air National Guard Base in Newburgh, NY. While I understand that there is an upgrade schedule in place, the 105th AW is not scheduled to receive upgrades until FY2018/2019.
Stewart has a long history of leading the Reserve Component in volunteering to support national contingency and humanitarian response operations. Given its strategic location approximately 70 miles from New York City, and its Army Reserve Component partners, it makes great strategic sense to equip the unit with ER tank C-17s immediately to allow them to participate fully and economically in all Air Force and homeland security mission sets.
Stewart is the only Airlift Wing in New York, and the only Air National Guard Base on the East Coast with the C-17 capability, an essential airframe for Air Mobility Command operations. During the transition from the C-5 to the C-17, the 105th AW saw a reduction in personnel. I am now concerned that with the limited range provided by the non-ER C-17s, the 105th AW will see its mission capabilities further reduced. Delaying the upgrade gives Stewart “second tier” status in the Total Force, hindering its ability to fully support the full range of C-17 missions, including theater direct delivery, aeromedical evacuation and homeland security missions performed by all components of the Total Force. While I understand that missions are planned appropriately for the non-ER tanks, I am still concerned that waiting another 6 years for an upgrade will be detrimental to Stewart’s future missions.
Given the limited capacity of the Air Force to upgrade airframes each year, I urge you to consider alternatives for the 105th Airlift Wing, including sending 4 ER tank airframes in place of the 4 non-ER tank airframes they are scheduled to receive this year, or scheduling all of their airframes for an upgrade ahead of their FY2018/2019 upgrade.