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WV representatives pitch Charleston as base for Guard’s new ‘stretch’ version of C-130 Hercules

Charleston Gazette-Mail

West Virginia’s Congressional delegation on Thursday urged Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett to name Charleston’s 130th Airlift Wing as one of three Air National Guard units nationwide to be assigned new, upgraded “stretch” versions of the C-130H aircraft currently flown by the unit.

The Air National Guard has been authorized to receive 24 new C-130J-30 “Super Hercules” aircraft as part of a recapitalization and modernization plan, and has announced its intention to assign eight of the new aircraft to each of three yet-to-be-determined bases.

In March, the 130th Airlift Wing was identified as being among eight candidate bases for staging the new aircraft, according to the National Guard Association of the United States. The eight bases were selected from among 15 Air Guard bases that fly C-130H aircraft, some of which date back to the 1970s. Two other Air Guard C-130 units have already received Super Hercules upgrades.


Site surveys were to have taken place this summer during visits to each of the candidate bases, but due to the COVID-19 outbreak, the National Guard Bureau conducted virtual surveys instead.

The C-130J-30 aircraft are built with fuselages 15 feet longer than C-130H models, allowing two additional pallets of cargo to be carried. They are powered by Rolls Royce turboprop engines and make use of six-bladed composite propellers.

The new aircraft should be assigned to the Charleston Air Guard unit due mainly to its ability to park, hangar and operate the Super Hercules without having to seek new Military Construction appropriations for alterations, according to a letter sent to Barrett by the Congressional delegation.

Hangars at the 130th’s McLaughlin Air National Guard Base at Yeager Airport “have been tested and confirmed that C-130J-30 aircraft fit with no structural modifications being necessary,” according to the letter. “Today, the 130th Airlift Wing can park eight C-130JH-30s (two in hangars, six on the apron) without any required Military Construction appropriations. The cost benefits of this alone should position McLaughlin ANGB as a strong candidate for basing the C-130J-30s.”

By selecting the 130th as one of the units to be assigned the Super Hercules aircraft, the Air Force will have a site ready to begin operating the new planes “without waiting to determine if Military Construction funding will be appropriated in a potentially challenging budget year,” according to the letter.

The letter, signed by Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va. and Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., and Reps. Carol Miller, Alex Mooney and David McKinley, all R-W.Va., also took to task several findings made during the National Guard Bureau’s virtual site survey of the Charleston base. They included a conclusion that the 130th’s existing ramp is not capable of parking six C-130J-30s due to the existence of waivers, requiring a $7 million Military Construction appropriation to remedy.

“That is not correct,” the delegation stated in its letter. “We have the ability to adjust our parking plan on our current property for approximately $300,000” by tapping an existing Facilities Sustainment, Restoration and Modernization fund, and “eliminate all waivers, if needed. The waivers simply maximize the utility of the existing ramp.”

Efforts by Yeager Airport and the West Virginia National Guard to develop nearby military training have provided “landing zones for Assault/Maximum Effort training at venues within 20 minutes flying time” for Super Hercules crews, according to the letter. The area’s mountainous landscape also “provides some of the most challenging terrain for aircrew training in this area of the country,” to better prepare aircrews for warfare “in potential future conflict zones.”

“The 130th Airlift Wing continues to be a unit of distinction and enjoys providing rapid global mobility and sustainment for America’s armed forces,” the letter concluded. “You can count on the 130th to bring the Air Force into the forefront of the 21st Century with the basing of C-130J-30 aircraft in Charleston, West Virginia.”