National Guard Leader Backs Limited C-130 Retirements, Fleet Upgrade

Airmen from the 179th Airlift Wing Maintenance Group work on a C-130H at the 179th Airlift Wing, Mansfield, Ohio.
Credit: Air National Guard

The leader of the National Guard Bureau said he supports a proposal to cut one C-130 wing in the component, though the rest of the Hercules fleet needs to be modernized not just for homeland missions but also for wartime needs, as Congress, the U.S. Air Force and the Guard wrestle over the airlifter’s required fleet size.

NGB Boss Gen. Daniel Hokanson, speaking with reporters Nov. 10, said that the number as proposed in the House Armed Services Committee’s version of the fiscal 2022 defense policy bill reflects a cut of one Guard wing, but the remaining units need to keep flying to meet the aircraft’s domestic need. 

“When we look at the need for tactical airlift and strategic airlift, we think it’s really important that we get it right,” Hokanson said.

The Air Force has announced plans to reduce the C-130 fleet down to 255 total, as the service wants to take a longer look at what future tactical airlift could be beyond the Hercules. The HASC proposal calls for 279 of the aircraft across the entire Air Force, allowing eight to be retired from the Ohio National Guard to allow a unit to transfer to cyber operations. The Senate’s version of the bill would keep 292 total C-130s. 

U.S. Transportation Command announced in July that a Mobility Capabilities Requirements Study looking at the needed fleet size was completed but the findings were not released, and Hokanson said he has not seen it. The previous iteration of the study did not take into account the Guard’s domestic role, he said. 

“We’re also waiting for the study … In the past it didn’t account for what we did in the homeland—that’s flying to forest fires, to disasters, and moving troops in a timely manner,” Hokanson said. “And so, it’s supposed to be accounted for this year, and it will be interesting to see where it goes. I know right now we’re scheduled to have one of our C-130 [wings] come off-line … and transfer to a mission set. But we think the remaining aircraft is probably about what we need, but of course, we need the data to support that.”

The Senate Appropriations Committee’s fiscal 2022 spending bill would provide $1.98 billion for 16 new C-130Js for the Guard, which would replace the oldest H models on a one-for-one basis, Hokanson said. 

“We really need modernization for the warfighting mission … We need the aircraft modernized so that they can be interoperable, no matter where we ask them to go on the globe,” he said.

Brian Everstine

Brian Everstine is the Pentagon Editor for Aviation Week, based in Washington, D.C. Before joining Aviation Week in August 2021, he covered the Pentagon for Air Force Magazine. Brian began covering defense aviation in 2011 as a reporter for Military Times.