Tester secures major commitments from senior Air Force officials

Air Force to make major investments in ICBMs, upgrade Malmstrom’s helicopter fleet, and modernize MANG’s C-130’s

(U.S. Senate)-Senator Jon Tester today secured major commitments from senior Air Force officials that will strengthen the long-term missions at Malmstrom and the Montana Air National Guard.

During a Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee hearing, Air Force Secretary Deborah James and Air Force Chief of Staff General Mark Welsh confirmed to Tester that the nuclear mission is the Air Force’s top priority and they plan to invest significant resources into maintaining, operating, and modernizing the ICBM fleet next year.

James also committed to delivering a new fleet of helicopters to Malmstrom by 2019 or earlier, and agreed that providing additional firefighting capabilities to a state like Montana made a lot of sense given the state’s propensity for wildfires.

“Strengthening the long-term missions at Malmstrom and MANG are critical to our national security and Montana’s economy,” said Tester, a senior member of the Appropriations Committee. “Today the Air Force made significant commitments to upgrade equipment and improve facilities for our airmen and I will continue to fight to ensure the folks who volunteered to serve this nation have the resources they need to successfully carry out their missions.”

Tester specifically pushed James to transfer multiple Mobile Automated Fire Support System (MAFFS) units to MANG, which can be loaded onto a C-130 to drop fire retardant and help fight wildfires. Currently, MANG’s fleet of C-130s are equipped for MAFFS and the unit already has personnel trained to operate and maintain the equipment.

In 2015, Tester helped secure a new fleet of helicopters for Malmstrom Air Force Base. They are now set to arrive in 2019 to replace the current Vietnam-era fleet of Huey helicopters. In this year’s Air Force budget, he fought to ensure that nearly $15 million was included for a new Missile Maintenance Dispatch Facility at Malmstrom that will ultimately free up the necessary space to properly house the new helicopters upon their arrival.

Last year, Tester successfully fought to keep Malmstrom’s 819th RED HORSE Squadron in Great Falls and he delivered $19.7 million for a new Air Force Tactical Response Force Alert Facility at Malmstrom that will be used to modernize its ICBM fleet.