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Lawmakers ask Air Force to rethink cutting C-130 fleet

A U.S. Air Force C-130J Super Hercules Aircraft from Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, takes off during Exercise Swift Response 16 at Hohenfels Training Area, Germany, June 17, 2016. Exercise SR16 is one of the premier military crisis response training events for multinational airborne forces in the world, the exercise has more than 5,000 participants from 10 NATO nations. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Joseph Swafford/Released)

The congressional members who represent Peoria are part of a bipartisan call to the U.S. Air Force to rethink how it will manage the tactical cargo planes flown by units such the 182nd Airlift Wing.

U.S. Reps Cheri Bustos, D-Moline, and Darin LaHood, R-Peoria, penned a letter with four others asking the Air Force not to reduce the C-130H fleet, which they say “could put the Peoria 182nd Airlift Wing’s mission readiness at risk and reduce combat efficiency.”

The Illinois Air National Guard unit stationed at Peoria’s airport has flown the H-model of the C-130 Hercules since 2005. That, however, is one of the older variants left of the venerable plane that has been flying since the early 1960s.

Active-duty units and many reserve and guard units are now flying the latest version, the J-model, and the Air Force wants to trim the C-130 fleet from 300 to 287, with all the cuts coming from Air Guard nationwide.

The congress members agree that eight of the planes cut are okay because they will be replaced with J-models, but five National Guard units will lose their back-up aircraft. Most wings now have seven planes with one backup.

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“Insisting that units now prepare for the same deployment requirements (without a backup plane) risks mission readiness, as 100 percent maintenance availability is rare with newer aircraft, let alone older H-models,” the letter said.

The letter was sent to the U.S. House Committee on Armed Services as it works on this year’s National Defense Authorization Act, a bill that funds the military.

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