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C-130 News: NDAA Limits Air Force Retirements, Offers C-130 Compromise

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ORLANDO, FLA. — The compromise National Defense

Authorization Act (NDAA) language, revealed Tuesday evening, limits the US Air Force’s

ability to retire any aircraft in what is a clear message from Congress that the

service has not earned its trust on major issues, such as the retirement of the

A-10 or U-2.

At the same time, negotiators also appear to have listened to concerns from

the Air National Guard over a major C-130 upgrade program.

The bill states that no money allocated for fiscal 2015 “may be obligated or

expended to retire, prepare to retire, or place in storage any aircraft of the

Air Force, except for such aircraft the secretary of the Air Force planned to

retire as of April 9, 2013, until a period of 60 days has elapsed following the

date on which the secretary submits†a major report on the structure of the Air

Force.

That report includes a presentation on the mix of each mission and aircraft

throughout the total force, and a breakdown of missions and capabilities for any

plane the service might want to retire. The Air Force is undergoing a aircraft-by-aircraft evaluation along

these lines.

The NDAA singles out two aircraft the Air Force has indicated a plan to

retire. The fight over the A-10 Warthog is the most visible, but the fight over

the KC-10 tanker is also spinning up.

The language specifically prohibits any fiscal 2015 funds being used to

“transfer, divest or prepare to divest any KC-10 aircraft†until 60 days after

the defense secretary submits a series of cost-benefit analyses.

Those analyses include a five-year force structure plan for the tanker fleet,

a breakdown of current and future air refueling and cargo transportation

requirements, and a risk assessment and mitigation strategy.

Relations between the Hill and the Air Force are not in a good place, with

the fight over the A-10 acting as a catalyst for years of mistrust on both sides. But the

Hill does appear to have thrown the service, or at least its Guard component, a

bone.

The bill requires the service to fund the C-130 Avionics Modernization

Program (AMP) — with one potentially large loophole.

The AMP has proven controversial, as opponents, including the Adjutants

General Association of the United States, argue it does not do enough to meet

upcoming FAA regulations and could potentially force chunks of the C-130H fleet

to be grounded.

“A fully funded AMP program, even if immediately restarted today with zero

programmatic delays, would modernize only a small fraction of the C-130H fleet

by 2020. This is unacceptable,†the trade association wrote in a July letter. “The prudent path instead is to

allow for a cost-effective ‘alternative solution’ that can be quickly

accomplished while preserving a realistic fiscal path to C-130J

recapitalization.â€

That concern appears to be acknowledged in the NDAA. Negotiators put in

language prohibiting any action to cancel or modify the AMP, but included an

exception if the defense secretary certifies that an alternative program is

“required to operate C-130 aircraft in airspace controlled by the Federal

Aviation Administration or airspace controlled by the government of a foreign

country.â€

That would seem to create breathing room for an AMP alternative that would

not leave the C-130H, used by the Guard in a number of different missions,

grounded when the new FAA regulations come into play.

Lawmakers also used the NDAA to draw a line in the sand over the future of

the RD-180, a Russian-made engine used for military space launch. Language in

the bill would force the Air Force to stop using the engine by 2019.

View original article: http://www.defensenews.com/article/20141203/CONGRESSWATCH/312030033/

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