Youngstown Air Reserve Station in northeast Ohio is on deck to become the next owner of C-130J Super Hercules cargo planes, the Air Force announced Thursday.

The base is one of four in the running to to host the replacement for the older C-130H Hercules that has been in use since the 1970s. Backup options include Peterson Space Force Base, Colorado; Dobbins Air Reserve Base, Georgia; and Minneapolis-St. Paul ARS, Minnesota.

The Air Force will make a final decision once an environmental study wraps up next summer.

“Youngstown ARS will continue to support Air Force Northern Command’s aerial spray mission and remain committed to their enduring tactical airlift mission,” the Air Force said in a release.

Aerial spray flights can help combat mosquitos after a hurricane or disperse oil after a major spill, for instance.

The Air Force wants to downsize its C-130H fleet from 128 to 118 in 2023. It currently owns about 150 C-130Js. Lockheed Martin builds the family of four-engine, turboprop C-130s.

C-130Js can fly faster than 400 mph and up to 28,000 feet — slightly faster and higher than older models — and carry 42,000 pounds of cargo. The C-130J-30, a stretch version of the regular J-model, can tote about 2,000 more pounds of cargo but flies lower and slower.

Upgrading to the J-models also means Youngstown will need to repurpose some of its crew members. The H-models require five airmen onboard — two pilots, a navigator, a flight engineer and a loadmaster — compared to the J variant, which has only two pilots and a loadmaster.

The Air Force also anticipates the newer airframes will be cheaper to fly and maintain. Most H-models have been grounded since September because of cracked propellers that could prove dangerous in flight.

Air Mobility Command did not immediately respond to a query on the status of the C-130H fleet on Friday.

Congress appears eager to speed up the service’s plan to replace the H-models with newer airframes. In the federal omnibus spending bill, passed by the Senate on Thursday, lawmakers added $1.7 billion for 16 additional C-130J aircraft to modernize two Air National Guard wings.

The House is expected to approve the funding bill, and President Joe Biden to sign it into law, by the end of the month.

Rachel Cohen is the editor of Air Force Times. She joined the publication as its senior reporter in March 2021. Her work has appeared in the Washington Post, the Frederick News-Post (Md.), Air and Space Forces Magazine, Inside Defense, Inside Health Policy and elsewhere.

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