Saturday, May 15, 2010

TOP STORY > >Training changes at LRAFB

Leader senior staff writer

Establishing a new Air Reserve component training unit at Little Rock Air Force Base, announced May 4 by Air Force Secretary Michael Donley, is part of a plan to augment the C-130 Hercules training fleet with C-130s from the nation’s Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve Squadrons.

“C-130 training is still to be done by the world’s best at Little Rock Air Force Base, but by 2014, trainers at the base’s C-130 school house will be working with more modern aircraft all the way around,” said Col. C.K. Hyde, commander of the 314th Airlift Wing.

The 314th and the National Guard’s 189th Airlift Wing will still train pilots, crew and maintainers for the Department of Defense and the Air Force, Hyde said, but the active-duty 314th will train airmen for the state-of-the-art C-130J only, increasing the 314th’s number of J models from seven to 14 over five years.

Hyde spoke Friday before leaving the office for his son’s North Pulaski High School senior prom. His son, Robert Hyde, has accepted an appointment to West Point Military Academy.

“It just makes sense,” he said of the realignment. “On the 314th side, my E-model fleet is retiring and I lose some of my manpower—an orderly transferal through 2014. At the same rate my people draw down, the Reserve will come in.”

“This C-130 arrangement is a great example of how the Air Force Reserve leverages its strengths and capabilities to support Air Force and combatant-command requirements,” said Lt. Gen. Charles E. Stenner Jr., chief of the Air Force Reserve. “Within the Air Force Reserve, I’ve emphasized associations and integration to meet (Air Force) operational and training mission requirements by aligning equipment, missions, infrastructure and manpower resources to enable more effective use of assets with our component partners.”

The National Guard’s 189th Airlift Wing, in conjunction with a new Air Reserve Command unit to be stood up at the base, will by 2011 train exclusively on C-130H aircraft and the C-130 avionics modernization program.

C-130s with the AMP designation have the avionics modernization program updates.

Those include a digital cockpit and communications and navigation gear compatible with those on the new C-130Js, the colonel said.

“We’ve known this (realignment) was coming for several years,” Hyde said.

Col. Jim Summers, commander of the Guard’s 189th Airlift Wing, was not available for this article, but Hyde said 17 Vietnam-era C-130Es, average age 46 years old, would be replaced by 18 C-130Hs or C-130 AMPs.

Throughout the Defense Department, 221 planes will be converted to the Avionics Modernization Program updates and over the next five years, active forces will be converting to all J-model aircraft, Hyde said.

Many of the C-130Hs headed eventually for the Reserves and the Guard at the base will be borrowed from eight states and Puerto Rico, in some cases over the objections of governors and senators from those states.

Plans to borrow two aircraft for the program from the West Virginia National Guard were scrapped last week after objections by senators Jay Rockefeller and Robert Byrd.

The Tennessee National Guard is and will continue to conduct pilot, crew and maintainer international training for countries that fly the C-130E and some older C-130H aircraft, according to Hyde.