Leader Blues

Thursday, December 10, 2009

TOP STORY >> Group seeks to widen missions for base

By GARRICK FELDMAN
Leader executive editor

The Little Rock Air Force Base Community Council on Tuesday unanimously approved a resolution calling for the Air Force to refrain from moving C-130 training to other facilities.

Based in large part upon a column written by Col. C.K. Hyde, commander of the 314th Airlift Wing, the resolution reads, “Be it resolved that: The Little Rock Air Force Base Community Council hereby respectfully requests that the leadership of the world’s best Air Force not dilute the proven combat delivery value and effectiveness of this ‘C-130 Center of Excellence’ at the Little Rock Air Force Base by moving such training to other locations and commands.”

Retired Col. Bill Kehler, who is president of the community council, told members that the base has plenty of space for more missions.

“We don’t need to move training elsewhere,” said Kehler, a former base commander. “We can handle more training. It’s not too crowded here.”

There are several hundred acres of undeveloped land at the base, which has received 23 new C-130Js, the newest generation of transport planes, and more could be on the way, according to two representatives from Lockheed Martin, the plane’s manufacturer, who spoke at the luncheon.

Several C-130s have been transferred here from Guard units in other sections of the country. But there’s always pressure to move training missions elsewhere.

Hyde, in a recent column in the Combat Airlifter, the newspaper at Little Rock Air Force Base, wrote that one of the greatest strengths of the Air Force “is the integration of active-duty, Reserve and Air National Guard components into the world’s best air, space and cyberspace force.”

“Readiness is a unique source of strength due to these components continuously fielding total force capabilities and executing their missions without significant start-up time and this readiness has important advantages to the joint force in meeting current operations and emerging requirements without significant training delays due to total-force readiness and interoperability given common and consistent standards and training, regardless of component,” Hyde wrote.

According to the resolution, “Whereas, combat delivery is the best example of quality total force capabilities and integration which was seen through equal readiness, common procedures and superb training during Operation Iraqi Freedom and other missions around the world; and

“Whereas, training is the foundation of this total-force capability which has been provided for over two decades through the world’s best training team at Little Rock Air Force Base through the 314th Airlift Wing and Arkansas Air National Guard’s 189th Airlift Wing in partnership with the Aircrew Training System contractor; and

“Whereas, this partnership has created an unmatched collection of combat delivery expertise, experience and innovation resulting in total-force readiness and interoperability that no other service or nation can match.”

Craig Chewning, who directs Lockheed’s C-130J government requirements, and George S. Sturgill, who directs Lockheed’s air mobility programs, told the council that demand for the plane continues to grow.

The planes are well-regarded in the military, they said, and are good value. They have two-person cockpits and are more fuel efficient, they said.

Their four engines are as powerful as five engines and take off twice as fast on shorter runways than the old C-130s.

In addition, the C-130Js have 40 percent more cargo space and digital avionics. Lockheed is offering the Air Force 10 percent price reductions if the planes are ordered in bulk. They now cost about $76 million each, but the price could drop to $68 million if the Air Force gives the company a large order.

Leader senior staff writer John Hofheimer contributed to this article.