Great Falls Tribune: Tester says MANG excluded from new C-130J aircraft

by Phil Drake

Sen. Jon Tester said Tuesday is seeking answers on a decision by the U.S. Air Force to exclude the Montana Air National Guard from its list of military bases to receive new C-130J aircraft.

“I write today to express my frustration and disappointment with your decision to select Texas, Kentucky, and West Virginia as locations to base new C-130J aircraft,” Tester, D-Montana, wrote in a Nov. 24 letter to Barbara Barrett, secretary of the U.S. Air Force.

Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont.
“I am concerned that, rather than prioritizing utility for the Air Force or cost-effectiveness, politics played a significant role in this process,” he wrote. “I am particularly concerned about the highly unusual step of announcing Georgia as the preferred state to base future aircraft that are yet to be authorized or procured.”

Efforts to immediately reach the Air Force on Tuesday evening were unsuccessful.

Tester asks for the rationale behind the decision and what factors played into it.

“As I have repeatedly stressed to you, and as evident by their continued services, the men and women of the Montana Air National Guard always work tirelessly to accomplish any mission required by the United States Air Force,” he wrote. “They make incredible sacrifices in the service to their country every day, and they do so while operating the oldest C-130Hs in the entire Air Force inventory.”

He said now that the Air Force’s fleet reductions are starting to take effect, he asked 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,” he wrote.

Tester said in October he was frustrated the U.S. Air Force delayed its decision on when it would deliver C130Js to the Montana Air National Guard until after the Nov. 3 election.

The 120th Airlift Wing, a unit of MANG is stationed at Great Falls Air National Guard Base at Great Falls International Airport.

The C-130J was to replace the aging C-130H fleet. Great Falls-based MANG members are now flying a C-130H fleet from 1974 that uses technology no longer used by the airlines and equipment the active duty Air Force no longer use.

In March, officials said MANG was one of eight finalists to be considered to receive new C-130J cargo planes to replace the aging C-130H fleet.