The most recent version of the Fiscal 2015 defense authorization bill prevents the Air Force from taking any action to scale back or eliminate its C-130H Avionics Modernization Program—a target for USAF cost cutters since Fiscal 2013. The authorization language prohibits “any action to cancel or modify” the program of record (some 150 older model C-130Hs). However, Congress has put the onus back on the Pentagon by including an exception in the bill to allow a proposal for a “alternative communication, navigation, surveillance, and air traffic management program for C-130 aircraft” to replace the AMP effort, as the older Hercs must meet international flight standards by 2020. The Secretary of Defense must certify to Congress any alternative modernization package is necessary to operate older C-130Hs in Federal Aviation Administration-controlled airspace, or airspace controlled by a foreign country that adheres to international air traffic standards, according to the bill’s language. To ensure compliance, Congress is mandating no more than 85 percent of operations and maintenance funds for USAF can be obligated or expended from the 2015 NDAA “until a period of 15 days” after the Secretary of the Air Force certifies USAF has appropriated previous year funding (prior to Fiscal 2015) for the AMP program.
Three B-1B Lancers from the 7th Bomb Wing flew over the Indo-Pacific alongside F-16s from the Japanese Air Self Defense Force recently, as part of a joint large force exercise. The mission began and ended in the continental U.S., as the bombers flew 31 hours and landed Jan. 11.