Guard Moving Ahead on C-130J Basing Plan Following Election Controversy

The Air National Guard is moving ahead with its plans to base new C-130Js at four bases in Kentucky, West Virginia, Texas, and Georgia, with those bases’ upgraded H models expected to replace other Hercules at other Guard locations.

The Air Force announced in November it had decided to add Georgia’s 165th Airlift Wing to the list of bases slated for new J models, causing some lawmakers to accuse the Air Force of playing politics by announcing the decision during that state’s runoff elections.

Louisville Air National Guard Base, Kentucky; McLaughlin Air National Guard Base, West Virginia; Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Fort Worth, Texas, will each receive eight C-130Js beginning in 2021, while Savannah Air National Guard Base, Georgia, will receive new aircraft “if they become available in the future,” USAF said at the time.

National Guard Bureau Chief Gen. Daniel R. Hokanson told members of the Senate Appropriations defense subcommittee in a hearing May 18 that the Montana Air National Guard, which flies the oldest H models in the service, will be among the bases to receive the H models that are being replaced. That state’s Sen. Jon Tester, who criticized the Air Force’s plan in November, pressed Hokanson for a schedule on this new plan, but he did not have one ready.

“My understanding, in working with the Air National Guard, [is] that as soon as the J models are available, they’ll start moving [to] the … units with the oldest C-130s so that we can retain the capability and capacity our nation needs,” Hokanson said.

Originally expected last year but delayed because of the pandemic, the newest Mobility Capabilities and Requirements Study by U.S. Transportation Command and the Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation office, which helps guide force structure planning, is now expected in July, Hokanson said. The 2018 iteration called for a cut in C-130 capacity, but Hokanson reiterated the need to retain all C-130 squadrons emphasizing the role C-130s play domestically as well.

The Air Force Reserve is also looking to prioritize upgrading its C-130s. The Reserve’s “Hurricane Hunters” with the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron at Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi, have already shifted to the J model, and AFRC also wants to upgrade its Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System-equipped C-130 units and its aerial spray unit to Js, command boss Lt. Gen. Richard W. Scobee told senators.