Guard and reserve would get 20 additional C-130J transport planes as part of budget deal
WASHINGTON — The proposed budget bill that would fund the U.S. government for the remainder of fiscal year 2022 provides funding for 20 additional C-130J Super Hercules aircraft for the Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard.
Sixteen of the added C-130Js would go to the Air National Guard to upgrade two operational wings at an additional cost of $1.8 billion, according to a summary of the omnibus spending bill released Wednesday by congressional officials. The other four, which would add $429 million to the spending bill, would go to the Reserves.
Increased spending on new C-130Js — now totaling nearly $2.4 billion, up from nearly $129 million in the administration’s budget request — would be a boon for Lockheed Martin, which makes the mobility aircraft.
It also represents the bulk of lawmakers’ increased spending on Air Force aircraft purchases added to the administration’s fiscal year 22 budget request. $15.7 billion in aircraft purchase spending, but the omnibus bill would cost $18.4 billion.
The Air National Guard is now in the midst of a multi-year effort to modernize its mobility fleet and replace its three-decade-old C-130H Hercules aircraft with modern C-130Js.
The C-130Js have upgraded engines with six-bladed propellers that provide more thrust and efficiency than their predecessor’s four-bladed propeller engines, allowing them to fly farther and faster. They also have digital avionics, improved displays, improved navigation and radar systems, more cargo space, a digital autopilot, and the need for a smaller crew.
In November 2020, the Air Force announced that it had selected Air National Guard bases in Kentucky, West Virginia, Texas, and Georgia to receive 24 C-130Js to replace their models. H» aging. At the time, Democrats objected to the Air Force’s surprise decision to select a fourth base — Savannah Air National Guard Base in Georgia — shortly before the runoff election for the two Senate seats there.
Air National Guard Director Lt. Gen. Mike Loh said during a roundtable with reporters last year that modernizing the force’s mobility fleet, including upgrading old C-130H, was crucial.
“In order to keep old planes, it’s costing me a lot of money,” Loh said at the Air Force Association’s Air, Space and Cyber conference in Maryland in September 2021.
The budget deal would also significantly increase spending on the C-130 modifications, from the administration’s original request of $29 million to $272 million.
This would include an additional $151 million for upgrading older C-130s with eight-bladed propellers, and an additional $79 million for engine upgrades.
These eight-bladed composite propellers were designed to make the C-130Hs more efficient as well as provide more thrust during takeoff and climb.
In an explanatory statement, the owners stressed the importance of maintaining the C-130 production line in light of dwindling manufacturing sources. Budget agreement includes an additional $26.3 million to pay for declining Air Force C-130J manufacturing source requirements in FY22, increasing original request by $113.3 million administration.
The omnibus budget would also add four MQ-9 drones to the administration’s original request for a price tag of $92 million, along with eight additional UH-N1 helicopter replacements.
Stephen Losey is Defense News’ air warfare reporter. He previously reported for Military.com, covering the Pentagon, special ops and air warfare. Prior to that, he covered Air Force leadership, personnel, and operations for Air Force Times.