Leader Blues

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

TOP STORY >>Another C-130J coming to base

The 41st Airlift Squadron at Little Rock Air Force Base will receive its third C-130J aircraft in an arrival ceremony at the base today.

The 41st Airlift Squadron became the newest unit of the 463rd Airlift Group at the base April 6. The “Black Cats” are also the first active-duty combat C-130J Hercules squadron in the Air Force.

The 41st AS moved here from Pope AFB, N.C., after the base realignment and closure process. Plans are for the “Black Cats” to have a complete fleet of C-130Js.

The C-130J aircraft will be delivered from the Lockheed Martin factory in Marietta, Ga., by 18th Air Force Commander, Maj. Gen. James A. Hawkins. This will be the second new C-130J aircraft that will be delivered to the squadron directly from the manufacturer.

The 314th Airlift Wing at Little Rock Air Force Base has seven C-130sJ for training. The base will receive several more C-130Js, which are the new generation of cargo planes. They are more computerized and have several modern features. The planes cost about $60 million each.

Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld tried to eliminate the C-130J program, but Air Force officials, defense contractors, congressional and civilian supporters pushed to continue the program.

In a related development, the Army last week announced a $2.04 billion contract award to L-3 Communications Integrated Systems for their C-27J Spartan to be the joint cargo aircraft, which could also one day be assigned to Little Rock Air Force Base.

This JCA program is a combined Air Force and Army effort to have an airframe that will meet warfighter needs for intratheater airlift.

It is smaller than the C-130 and is therefore more versatile, getting in and out of restricted space much faster. Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., supports the joint cargo aircraft and hopes Little Rock Air Force Base will get several of them.
Cong. Vic Snyder, D-Ark., said, “Little Rock Air Force Base has a very bright future. It’s a long time before (the C-27J) rolls off the assembly line. Little Rock Air Force Base is a great place to do the kind of training they need, and the Air Force knows that.”

“This is a great day for all of us,” said Maj. Gen. Marshall K. Sabol, Air Force deputy chief of staff for Air, Space and Information Operations, Plans and Requirements. “We’ve been working hard together with the Army on all the requirements, and we’ve come up with a joint airplane, the same airplane, working on the same mission.”

Army and Air Force leaders said the JCA will bring advantages to both services and also assist in the recapitalization efforts of both services.

Leader senior writer John Hofheimer and Air Force Public Affairs contributed to this article.