Senator Says it is Vital to Maintain Adequate Aircraft Inventory of C-130 Flying Wings in Minnesota, Across Country to Ensure Guard Can Continue Responding to Active Duty Missions, Disasters & Other Emergencies

WASHINGTON, D.C. [11/12/20]—This week, U.S. Senator Tina Smith (D-Minn.) led a bipartisan Senate coalition advocating for a large enough C-130 aircraft fleet in Minnesota and across the country to support active duty missions as well as respond to disasters and emergencies at home.

After news that the Air Force was considering reductions in the size of the C-130 fleet, last month Sen. Smith and the Minnesota Congressional delegation called on the Secretary of the Air Force, Barbara Barrett, to maintain the size of the C-130 fleet while making the most efficient use of taxpayer dollars. The 133rd Airlift Wing, stationed at the Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport, serves the entire state and any potential reductions could affect critical C-130 missions, including supporting humanitarian and disaster relief and assisting in the coronavirus (COVID-19) response.

And now, Sen. Smith—along with Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Steve Daines (D-Mont.), Joe Manchin (D-W.V.), Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.V.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), and Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.)—is 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.

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,” wrote Sen. Smith and her colleagues.

The Senators concluded with “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.”

Sen. Smith’s push supports state efforts by Minnesota Governor Tim Walz and 13 other governors.

You can access a copy of the letter authored by Sen. Smith and her colleagues here and text of the letter below:

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.