Monday, March 10, 2014

TOP STORY >> Base to get 10 C-130Js, also others

Leader senior staff writer

Little Rock Air Force Base may consolidate its position as the primary C-130 base in the world, with many legacy C-130s from around the country either decommissioned or reassigned at LRAFB and 10 more state-of-the-art C-130Js, once slated for Pope Field at Fort Bragg, N.C., diverted here.

Those C-130Js, currently based at Keesler Air Force Base in Mississippi, were headed for Pope. But now it appears they will be assigned to the 22nd Air Force, Detachment 1, a reserve force being stood up at Little Rock Air Force Base, according to Sen. Mark Pryor.

“Ten aircraft are enough for a squadron,” Pryor said. “This is breaking news.”

The 22nd Air Force will soon be reconstituted as the 913th Airlift Group, Master Sgt. Chris Durney said Friday afternoon. “The mission changed in October 2013, and we were changed to a combat unit, undergoing integration with the 50th Airlift Squadron,” he said. "That’s part of the 19th Airlift Wing." The original mission had been training.

Durney confirmed that the unit expected to receive 10 C-130Js and added that he didn’t know when the Air Force would stand up the 913th Airlift Group.

“We don’t know if anything in that budget will come to fruition,” Durney said.

Currently, the 22nd Air Force is authorized for more than 600 airmen and employs a little over 430, of which about 300 are traditional reservists, serving a weekend a month.
They fly about six planes.

The Air Force proposal is in the 2015 National Defense Authorization Act, which Congress will begin reviewing this spring.

Pryor said that would be part of the Defense Department’s effort at increasing efficiency, reconfiguring and downsizing this country’s armed forces.

“Little Rock is a center of excellence on (C-130 transport) and, if it holds with 10 additional C-130Js, that’s a very good thing,” said Pryor, who is on the Senate Defense Appropriations Committee.

“My sense is that someone at the Pentagon looked and said the most efficient thing is to base those planes at Little Rock,” Pryor said.

On Friday, Rep. Tim Griffin (R-Ark.) said, “More C-130Js at Little Rock Air Force Base would be good news and would solidify the base’s status as the C-130 capital of the world.”

The 10 C-130Js had been slated for Pope as part of the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act, according to an article this week in The Fayetteville (N.C.) Observer.   

Instead, officials said the 913th Airlift Group would be activated in Little Rock.

In the 2013 Defense bill, Congress gave a stay to 32 legacy C-130s through 2014. It’s uncertain at this point what will happen to those.

Two C-130s assigned to the Ohio National Guard at Youngstown had already been loaned, then reassigned to Little Rock. A third was reassigned this week, according to published reports.

The first of eight C-130s headed to Great Falls for the Montana Air National Guard was to have landed there today. The Guard there lost its F-15 fighter planes to Fresno, Calif., and several F-15 pilots are retraining at Little Rock’s C-130 school to fly those cargo planes.