Tester bill will modernize MANGs C-130s
Senator’s bipartisan measure will extend lifespan of Montana’s ‘workhorses’
(U.S. Senate) – Senator Jon Tester is introducing bipartisan legislation that will keep the Montana Air National Guard’s new C-130 aircraft flying without restrictions for decades to come.
Tester’s bill gives the Air Force flexibility to modernize its C-130H fleet to meet national and international rules without having to perform a more costly overhaul. Under the Senator’s bill, the Air Force will be able to modernize its C-130Hs using a less costly and extensive communication and navigation upgrade that will allow each aircraft to meet flight specifications before a 2020 deadline.
“The C-130 can haul cargo and troops into some difficult places, and it can fight wildfires and conduct search and rescue operations right here in Montana,” said Tester, who helped bring the C-130s to Great Falls earlier this year. “This bill will keep C-130s flying without restrictions for decades by giving the Air Force the flexibility it needs to modernize the fleet in a cost-effective and timely way.”
The Air Force, Air Force Reserve, and Air National Guard have 263 C-130Hs, including eight operated by the Montana Air National Guard (MANG). Without the upgrades provided for in the bill, the aircraft could be limited in the missions they could fly by 2020.
Tester, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, recently included a provision in the Fiscal Year 2015 Defense Department funding bill to provide funds to modernize the C-130s. His new bill, in addition to giving the Air Force more flexibility, allows the Air Force to use previously unspent funds on modernization work.
Air National Guard officials recently backed the solution being put forth by Tester, with every adjutant general in the U.S. urging Congress to fund a C-130H upgrade, saying “the prudent path is to allow for a cost effective ‘alternate solution’ that can be quickly accomplished.”
The National Guard Association of the United States released the following statement in support of the legislation: “The Air Force must move forward on modernizing its C-130H fleet, while also providing a concurrent and proportionate recapitalization and fielding plan for all components to ensure parity in the C-130 enterprise. This is the only way the Air Force can maintain robust airlift capability for the Total Force and the nation moving into the future.”
The U.S. military has operated C-130Hs worldwide for decades. It can transport more than 90 combat troops or 42,000 pounds of cargo. The last of MANG’s eight C-130Hs arrived in Great Falls earlier this year after years of Tester’s hard work to secure the mission.
Tester’s C-130 modernization bill is co-sponsored by fellow Montana Senator John Walsh, as well as Senators Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), Mark Begich (D-Alaska), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Tom Carper (D-Del.) and Mark Pryor (D-Ark.).