Tuesday, March 11, 2014

TOP STORY >> Reserves ready for 10 C-130Js

Leader senior staff writer

The president’s proposed $495.6 billion 2015 defense budget would terminate some Air Force programs, but it would add to the airlift capacity and significance of Little Rock Air Force Base as the worldwide C-130 center of excellence.

It would send 10 additional state-of-the-art C-130J transports to Little Rock from Keesler Air Force Base in Mississippi.

Those planes had been slated for Pope Field at Fort Bragg, N.C. The new plan would assign them to the 22nd Air Force, Detachment 1 — an Air Force reserve unit under the command of Col. Archie Frye.

The new plan would raise the number of C-130s at Little Rock to 95, with 41 of them C-130Js and about 50 more the older C-130H models, base public affairs specialist Arlo Taylor said Tuesday.

In addition to hosting the 19th Airlift Wing, which supports combat and humanitarian missions worldwide, the base houses the 314th Airlift Wing, which is part of the training command; the 22nd Air Force Detachment 1, which is a Reserve unit, and the 189th Airlift Wing, which is an Arkansas National Guard unit.

For the airmen at Little Rock, who fly and maintain C-130Js and train pilots from all U.S. armed forces and allies, the 10 C-130Js represent job and mission security and a new Air Force Reserve unit to boot.

If enacted into law, the 22nd Air Force, Detachment 1 — aC-130 Air Force Reserve unit at Little Rock — would convert to the 913th Airlift Group and be equipped with those aircraft, according to Master Sgt. Chris Durney, a public affairs officer for the 22nd.

The unit is authorized for 600 positions at Little Rock and currently employs 430. Any increase is good news to merchants, landlords and schools in Jacksonville and in surrounding communities.

The proposed change in force structure at the base is just one part of an Air Force Reserve-wide shift as detailed in the Air Force portion of the fiscal 2015 President’s Budget Request, Durney said.

Frye said, “While we’re certainly excited about our future as part of a strengthened Team Little Rock, we understand that this proposed budget request is in the early stages of the political process.

“We feel, though, that this is a reflection of our incredible skill set, the value-based nature of the Reserve and our commitment to the global combat airlift mission.”

If approved by Congress and signed into law by the president, most of the proposed force structure changes will occur in 2015 and 2016.

The unit’s new designation would be a reactivation of the 913th, a Reserve unit of the 22nd Air Force that was deactivated in September 2007 at its home station of Willow Grove, Penn.

Frye, who has commanded the unit since February 2011, previously commanded the 931st Air Refueling Group at McConnell Air Force Base.

Durney said no date has been announced for standing up the 913th.

Under the president’s proposed budget, the Air Force will receive funding to support 59 active, Reserve and Guard combat-coded air squadrons, with an emphasis on meeting emerging threats, according to a Defense Department press release.


The Air Force emphasizes its modernization program in this budget request.

It includes $4.6 billion for 26 Joint Strike Fighters in fiscal year 2015 and $31.7 billion for 238 planes over the Future Years Defense Program (FYDP).

The Long Range Strike Bomber is funded at $0.9 billion for fiscal year 2015 and $11.4 billion over the FYDP.

The budget requests $2.4 billion for seven KC-46 Tankers in fiscal year 2015 and $16.5 billion for 69 aircraft over the FYDP.

In addition, the budget invests $1 billion over the next five years in a next-generation jet engine. These investments required trade-offs, the Defense Department acknowledged.

The A-10 Warthog is being phased out. The 50-year-old U-2 is being retired in favor of the unmanned Global Hawk system. The growth of Predator/Reapers forces is being slowed, and plans for the new combat rescue helicopter are being reviewed.

But commitment to the C-130J seems strong.

13 MORE C-13OJS IN 2015

Maj. Gen. Jim Martin, Air Force director of budget, said in a March 4 briefing, “In (fiscal year) ’15, as part of the C-130J multi-year procurement program, we’ll buy 13 C-130J variants.”

He said those would include seven C-130Js to support global mobility, four HC-130s to support personnel recovery and two MC-130s to support special operations.

The five-year plan calls for 72 planes: 29 C-130Js, 25 MC-130Js, 13 HC-130Js, five AC-130Js, six KC-130Js and possibly another five planes for the Coast Guard at a cost of about $11.2 billion.

One line item shows the purchase of seven C-130Js in 2015, 14 in 2016 and 2 more in 2017 at a gross cost of $1.85 billion, or about $81 million each.

Pilots, crews and maintainers for all C-130 variants are trained at Little Rock.

“We would…accelerate recapitalization efforts for F-35s, MQ-9s and C-130s. And we would also fund deferred aircraft modifications for our legacy aircraft and upgrades to our more advanced platforms. Last, but not least, we would invest in reducing the enormous backlog of facility requirements across our Air Force.”

The line item in the budget for the C-130 AMP — avionics modernization program — shows no authorization. But, in its place, the Pentagon is looking for less expensive ways to update communications and navigation to bring legacy C-130H models into compliance with new rules governing airspace.

Martin said fiscal year 2015 Air Force procurement programs total $7 billion and represent some of the areas where the Defense Department made tough choices.