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USAF study: C-130 fleet too big, cuts needed to modernize

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FB: Too many C-130s? Air Force report says it needs to cut, lawmakers aren't convinced.

A cCongressionally mandated Air Force review of the service's C-130s backs up all of the service's decisions to move and retire parts of its Hercules fleet, but fails to allay concerns from lawmakers who are poised to block those plans to move and retire some of the aircraft.

The Air Force in March finalized a report on C-130 fForce sStructure, which was mandated in the fiscal 2013 National Defense Authorization Act. That year, the Air Force attempted to retire dozens of C-130s across the service, but was blocked by Congress, which who then required the service to produce a report on the savings and strategic decisions behind the moves.

The Air Force kept a minimum of 358 aircraft during the review. The service is now moving to reduce that number to 300, with the goal of saving $751 million over five years. A fleet of 300 would still exceed Defense Department requirements by 52 aircraft, according to the report.

The moves include retiring some of the oldest C-130H models and moving aircraft around to consolidate the units that used to fly the aircraft. Some of the savingsmoney would be used to upgrade the avionics on the remaining C-130Hs and help the active duty move to an all-modern C-130J fleet.

"Savings generated will enable the Air Force to invest in modernization of the C-130 fleet as well as various other critical mission areas," the Air Force report states. "More importantly, the force structure changes allow the Defense Department to continue to resource the C-130 enterprise across all components and mission sets at levels required to ensure mission success."

The Air Force's plans to move C-130s out of certain bases have angered the lawmakers who represent those regions, and who have now vowed to block the moves.

The service wants planned to move C-130s out of Pope Air Field, North Carolina, with the expectation it would save $116 million over five years. The base supports Army units at Fort Bragg, and the Air Force service says other units could support the training exercises there. But lawmakers aren't buying it.

The report "fails to alleviate any of my initial concerns regarding closure of the 440th Airlift Wing," Rep. Renee Ellmers, R-N.C., said in a statement. "In no way will this report stifle my efforts in working to maintain this invaluable wing. It's a disappointment that the Air Force has refused to acknowledge the strategic concerns expressed by the entire North Carolina delegation."

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