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Capito, Manchin join bipartisan push to protect West Virginia Air National Guard aircraft from elimination

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) joined a bipartisan Senate coalition advocating for a large enough C-130 aircraft fleet in West Virginia and across the country to support active duty missions as well as respond to disasters and emergencies at home. Specifically, the senators and their colleagues wrote a letter urging Armed Services Committee conferees to make sure the final National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) bill adopts House language so that the nation maintains an adequate inventory of C-130 aircraft.

The members said in part, “Our Air National Guard C-130 flying wings provide nearly half of the Air Force’s tactical airlift capability. For more than 50 years, we have brought Americans into combat, provided humanitarian relief around the globe, and supported domestic response throughout the nation. As the Air Force proposes changes to align our force structure with the National Defense Strategy (NDS), it is vitally important we do not trade experience and knowhow in pursuit of expensive, less defined capabilities.”

“The ANG C-130 fleet has been the backbone of our tactical airlift capability for a generation. Our ANG wings have built experience and expertise through repeated deployments and domestic operations. Hard choices will be required as we restructure the Air Force to face future foreign and domestic challenges. Therefore, we must make informed, data driven, decisions as we manage the C-130 fleet. For these reasons, we strongly urge you to incorporate House Section 1043 supporting a [Total Aircraft Inventory] of 292 C-130 Aircraft in the final Fiscal Year 2021 National Defense Authorization Act,” the members concluded.

In addition to Senators Capito and Manchin, the letter was signed by U.S. Senators Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), and Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.).

Read the full letter below or click here.

Dear Chairmen and Ranking Members:

We write in support of House Section 1043 which would require the Air Force maintain a Total Aircraft Inventory (TAI) of 292 C-130 aircraft in the final Fiscal Year 2021 National Defense Authorization Act. As Senators from states that have Air National Guard (ANG) C-130 wings, we are deeply concerned by the effects a lower minimum number of C-130s would have.

Our Air National Guard C-130 flying wings provide nearly half of the Air Force’s tactical airlift capability. For more than 50 years, we have brought Americans into combat, provided humanitarian relief around the globe, and supported domestic response throughout the nation. As the Air Force proposes changes to align our force structure with the National Defense Strategy (NDS), it is vitally important we do not trade experience and knowhow in pursuit of expensive, less defined capabilities.

The Senate’s proposed language takes the approach of setting a minimum number of C-130 aircraft in the fleet by adopting a Primary Mission Aircraft Inventory (PMAI) of 230 aircraft. Unlike the House approach, mandating PMAI alone does not account for training aircraft inventory requirements or backup aircraft needed to support maintenance inspection and depot requirements. This disconnect could hamper the ANG’s readiness and training capabilities due to a potential lack of training assets and extended maintenance downtime. The House’s proposed TAI of 292 C-130s sets an aircraft minimum that accounts for all aircraft, including the training and maintenance needs of the C-130 fleet. In fact, the 2018 Mobility Capabilities and Requirements Study recommended a TAI of 300 C-130s to support combatant commanders’ wartime mobility requirements.

Further, House Section 1043 is supported by 14 governors from states whose ANGs have C-130 flying missions. As these governors highlighted in a recent letter to your committees, Section 1043 would ensure that their ANG wings can continue to support the nation’s essential worldwide and domestic contingencies. As such, the 292 C-130 TAI would allow the ANG to support the NDS without inhibiting the Guard’s unique domestic missions responding to natural disasters and other emergencies.

The ANG C-130 fleet has been the backbone of our tactical airlift capability for a generation. Our ANG wings have built experience and expertise through repeated deployments and domestic operations. Hard choices will be required as we restructure the Air Force to face future foreign and domestic challenges. Therefore, we must make informed, data driven, decisions as we manage the C-130 fleet. For these reasons, we strongly urge you to incorporate House Section 1043 supporting a TAI of 292 C-130 Aircraft in the final Fiscal Year 2021 National Defense Authorization Act. 

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