Hitting the Tactical Airlift Floor

Congress’ mandate that the Air Force keep 32 tactical airlifters in service that it aimed to retire in Fiscal 2013 effectively “equates to an intratheater airlift floor” of 358 airplanes through the fiscal year, said Col. Jon Thomas, program integration chief in Air Force headquarters. Lawmakers, in the Fiscal 2013 defense authorization act, directed the Air Force to retain those tails—either C-130s, C-27Js, or a mix—to ensure there’s enough direct airlift support of ground forces. With C-130s spread over all three Air Force components, the newly formed Intra-Theater Airlift Working Group has its work cut out for it, Thomas told reporters on Jan. 10. “They’re going through and very carefully looking at all the inventories and where all the airplanes are moving” due to past decisions and newly authorized retirements, he noted. Since Air Force Secretary Michael Donley told reporters on Jan. 11 that he does “not anticipate” the service revisiting its plan to retire all C-27Js, it appears that the 32 airlifters will all be C-130s. Thomas said the Air Force still has enough C-130s in service that it probably wouldn’t have to draw from its aircraft boneyard to maintain 358 airframes.