Leader Blues

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

TOP STORY > >Congress, Pentagon want more C-130Js for military

By JOHN HOFHEIMER
Leader senior staff writer

The C-130J airlifter “represents America’s best technology and capacity,” Air Force Chief of Staff Michael Moseley told the House Armed Services Committee last week in the early wrangling to secure future funding, and he said the Air Force wants to extend production of the C-130J beyond expected end of production in 2010.

Currently the Air Force is set to take delivery of eight more C-130Js by the end of 2010, two of them for the Marines, at a cost of $576 million.

But Air Force officials are negotiating on the price with Lockheed Martin, which offered last fall to sell the military an additional 120 C-130Js between 2011 and 2015 for $6.1 billion.

That’s about $50 million per plane, which is about $10 million a plane less than the current price.

“The C-130J is a great new airplane that is performing very well in war environments,” said Cong. Vic Snyder, chairman ofthe
House Armed Services oversight subcommittee. Little Rock Air Force Base is in Snyder’s district.

All U.S. and allied C-130 pilot, crew and maintenance training is conducted at LRAFB, considered the premiere C-130 base in the world.

“More C-130J’s would probably mean more work for LRAFB,” the congressman said, “but procurement decisions must always be made based on what is in the national security in-terest of our nation, not the parochial interest of one congressional delegation or one base.

“I defer to the Air Force analysis regarding what they believe their long-term transportations needs are,” Snyder said.

He said the older, Vietnam-era C-130Es need to be retired and replaced by modernized H models and the C-130J.

“General Moseley and Air Force Secretary (Michael) Wynne are strong advocates for extending the C-130J line,” said Snyder. “It is not at all surprising, given the importance of reliably moving equipment and personnel, that additional planes may be forthcoming.”

The C-130J, which proponents say has proven itself in Iraq and Afghanistan, is in competition against other big-ticket items, including the C-17 airlifter, the F-22 Raptor jet fighter, other weapons systems and personnel increases—and that’s just in the Air Force.

“We must maintain and extend the existing product line,” Moseley said in a prepared statement.

Under the proposal, Lockheed Martin would build and sell the Air Force 24 C-130Js a year for five years between 2011 and 2015.

It is building about 12 a year at about $60 million each.

Wynne added, however, that the Air Force was “trying to make sure we have a need” for that many new C-130Js.