Kentucky Air Guard unit to get new C-130J transports

Members of the 123rd Airlift Wing board a C-130 Hercules aircraft at the Kentucky Air National Guard Base in Louisville, Ky., Feb. 23, 2018, prior to deploying to the Persian Gulf region. The Airmen will spend four months flying troops and cargo across the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility, which Includes Iraq, Afghanistan and northern Africa. (U.S. Air National Guard photo boy Lt. Col. Dale Greer)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WTVQ) – The Kentucky National Guard’s 123rd Air Wing will receive eight

The Kentucky Air National Guard’s 123rd Airlift Wing, based in Louisville, Ky., has been flying the C-130H Hercules aircraft since 1992. Air Force officials have announced that the wing will receive eight C-130J aircraft sometime in 2021, replacing planes that have seen duty on nearly every continent, including multiple deployments to the U.S. Central Command Area of Responsibility. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Dale Greer)

new C-130J aircraft to upgrade its current fleet.

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Only four Air National Guard units in the entire country were chosen by the U.S. Air Force in a competitive stationing process, the state’s congressional delegation said in making the announcement.

The unit, based at Louisville Muhammad Ali International Airport, is expected to begin receiving eight of the C-130Js in 2021, pending the outcome of an environmental assessment. The C-130J is the most current model of the venerable airframe.

It will replace eight C-130H aircraft the wing has been flying since 1992. Three other Air Guard units — in Texas, West Virginia and Georgia — also were selected to receive C-130Js.

“The Kentucky National Guard has protected this country for generations, and are now protecting us during this pandemic,” Gov. Andy Beshear said. “With the U.S. Air Force only selecting four Air National Guard units in the entire country during this competitive process, their selection of Kentucky demonstrates the Commonwealth’s commitment to our military and military families, the capability of our service members, and our ability to move forward and create a better commonwealth for all Kentuckians as we emerge from this pandemic.” 

The newest aircraft will reduce manpower requirements, lower operating and support costs, and provide life-cycle cost savings over earlier C-130 models, according to Col. David Mounkes, commander of the 123rd Airlift Wing.

Compared to older C-130s, the J model also climbs faster and higher, flies farther at a higher cruise speed, and takes off and lands in a shorter distance. 

Major system improvements include an advanced two-pilot flight station with fully integrated digital avionics, color multifunctional liquid crystal and head-up displays, and state-of-the-art navigation that includes a dual inertial navigation system and GPS.

The aircraft also features fully integrated defensive systems, low-power color radar, a digital moving map display, new turboprop engines with six-bladed all-composite propellers, and a digital auto pilot.

Improved fuel, environmental and ice-protection systems, and an enhanced cargo-handling system round out the new transport aircraft. 

Brig. Gen. Jeff Wilkinson, the Kentucky National Guard’s assistant adjutant general for Air, said the decision to base the aircraft in Kentucky is a testament to the 123rd’s legacy of superb performance in missions all over the world.

“The selection is a reflection of the wing’s culture of excellence and strong operational impact to both overseas contingencies and homeland domestic operations,” Wilkinson said. “The 123rd Airlift Wing was selected because we will make the most impactful use of this capability for the Guard and the United States Air Force.”

The process to determine which of eight potential units would receive the J model has taken months, with officials from the National Guard Bureau, Air Mobility Command and U.S. Air Force evaluating a variety of factors. These included a unit’s ability to support the airframe with existing facilities, its aircraft maintenance capabilities and its history of operational missions.

The 123rd Airlift Wing just completed a four-month deployment to the Persian Gulf region last week, during which its aircrews flew 4,948 combat sorties to deliver 15,000 passengers and 10,158 tons of supplies and gear to locations across the U.S. Central Command Area of Responsibility.

The wing is one of the most decorated units in the United States Air Force, with 18 Air Force Outstanding Unit Awards.

 The Kentucky Congressional Delegation contacted Secretary of the Air Force Barbara Barrett on multiple occasions in support of the unit’s selection, touting its premier abilities and strategic location.

“Kentucky is grateful to the 123rd Airlift Wing and the 8,000 soldiers and airmen of our Commonwealth’s National Guard for their dedication to protecting our communities and our country,” said Senator Mitch McConnell.

The Kentucky ANG’s current squadron of eight C-130H aircraft is aging and in need of recapitalization. The new C-130J aircraft offers improved capabilities to fulfill the ANG’s missions domestically and abroad.

In particular, the new model will provide the Kentucky ANG a 25 percent greater immediate response capability when executing its emergency and disaster response missions.

Stationing the C-130J aircraft in Louisville is not only a cost-effective basing decision, but will also maximize the value of its increased capacities, the delegation said.

“This new platform will give increased capability, allowing Kentucky’s airmen to remain a viable force and continue providing theater airlift support around the globe,” said Senator Rand Paul.

“The Kentucky National Guard is a critical component of our state and our nation, with highly trained men and women who are always prepared to respond to emergencies here at home and overseas,” said Congressman Hal Rogers, dean of the Kentucky Delegation.

“It is my honor to represent the men and women of the Kentucky Air National Guard’s 123rd Airlift Wing in Congress, and I am thrilled that the federal funding we’ve been able to secure will make Louisville home to the C-130J,” said Congressman John Yarmuth. “This talented wing has never hesitated in answering our nation’s call, and that dedication to service has made them one of the most decorated units in the United States Air Force. The basing process was highly competitive and, once again, the 123rd Airlift Wing got the job done.”

“Louisville’s 123rd Airlift Wing is one of the most respected units in the nation. The Air Force’s decision to deploy a new C-130J squadron to them means the men and women of the 123rd Airlift Wing will have the state-of-the-art equipment needed to fulfill their vital mission,” added Congressman Thomas Massie. “I thank Secretary Barrett for recognizing the significant role Kentucky plays in defending our nation by selecting the 123rd Airlift Wing as one of only four recipients of these new aircraft.”

“This new squadron of eight C-130J aircraft will support the Air Guard’s critical airlift mission here at home and abroad, and will replace the aging fleet of C-130H models,” noted Congressman Andy Barr.