Chairman Tester Secures Air Force Commitment On Montana Air National Guard C-130s

Air Force tells Senator state must sign off on any mission changes

During a Senate Appropriations Defense Subcommittee hearing on Navy and Air Force Weapons Systems Divestments, Chairman Jon Tester secured a commitment from the U.S. Air Force that they would not decommission the Montana Air National Guard’s (MANG) C-130H aircraft without first consulting with and receiving agreement from the state of Montana.

Chairman Tester called the hearing to question the Air Force about its plans to retire C-130H aircraft after the Department of Defense proposed nearly $2.8 billion in divestments from legacy weapons systems in its Fiscal Year 2022 budget.

“The President’s budget request plans to divest eight C-130Hs,” said Chairman Tester. “These planes are only flown by the Air Guard units and that cut is enough to eliminate an entire Guard unit…Has the Air Force identified a unit that you want to convert to a new mission?”

“We have not yet identified a unit,” said Lieutenant General David S. Nahom, U.S. Air Force Deputy Chief of Staff for Plans and Programs. “We have some replacement missions we’re looking at, and we’re seeking units that we can come to a mutually agreeable replacement mission. We are not going to force a unit to change their mission…we’re hoping we can make some mutually agreeable changes, if not, we’ll look elsewhere.”

The 120th Airlift Wing of MANG is stationed at Great Falls Air National Guard Base, and its members fly C-130Hs from 1974 that have outdated technology and equipment no longer used by active duty Air Force. This has led to concerns about the long-term viability of the Wing, but the Air Force’s commitment means Montana will be a full partner in deciding the future of the base.

Chairman Tester has been a relentless advocate for critical modernization efforts of the Air National Guard’s aging fleet of C-130Hs in Montana and across the country, and last year he met with the women and men of the Wing to discuss the urgent need to secure new aircraft for the unit. He successfully included legislation in the fiscal year 2016 National Defense Authorization Act providing the Air Force with the authorization and funding it needed to modernize its C-130H fleet.

Tester became Chairman of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee in February. The Committee is responsible for providing nearly $700 billion annually to the Department of Defense and related agencies. This is more than 95 percent of the military’s yearly budget and includes matters ranging from pay and benefits for millions of service members to the development of advanced technologies and next-generation weapons.

Watch full video of the exchange HERE.