Herculean Concerns

Several House members on Tuesday expressed concerns about the size and modernization of the C-130 fleet, saying they worry the Air Force has been forced to choose between capability and capacity even though it needs both. “The Air Force has previously assessed that there is moderate risk with a reduced C-130 force structure and another reduction further places our national security at even greater risk,” said Rep. Randy Forbes (R-Va.), chairman of the House Armed Services Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee, in his opening remarks. “It seems to me that the budget request will result in a tactical airlift fleet that is smaller and older.” But while Lt. Gen. James Holmes, the Air Force’s deputy chief of staff for strategic plans and requirements, allowed that the budget request was influenced by financial pressure, he said the plan to move to 300 C-130s over time is an appropriate risk. “We think that 275 strategic airlifters built into 479 tankers and 300 tactical airlifters will ensure we’ll be able to meet the nation’s mobility needs,” Holmes said. Additionally, he said, the Air Force was able to accelerate the first increment of the C-130 modernization program, and all 300 of the C-130s will be safe and modernized after the second phase. “We’d love to be able to recapitalize some of the older C-130Hs; at the budget level we’re at now, we can’t fit it into the program, but we believe we’ll provide [300] safe, compliant, and modernized airplanes,” he said.