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CT’s Bradley Air National Guard Base to get new C-130J aircraft

An AC-130J Ghostrider assigned to the 4th Special Operations Squadron, Hurlburt Field, Florida, soars over interior Wisconsin during EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2021, July 30, 2021.
Master Sgt. Christopher Boitz
U.S. Air Force
An AC-130J Ghostrider assigned to the 4th Special Operations Squadron, Hurlburt Field, Florida, soars over interior Wisconsin during EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2021, July 30, 2021.

The U.S. Air Force announced Thursday that it chose Connecticut’s Bradley Air National Guard Base as one of four preferred bases to receive new C-130J aircraft, a move that Connecticut lawmakers have long supported.

The new fleet will bolster the Connecticut Air National Guard and its base in East Granby and replace the current C-130H aircraft stationed there. Officials in the state touted that new aircraft will further assist Connecticut’s unit in the handling of airlifts, humanitarian efforts and deployments.

The Air Force plans to move eight new planes to each of the four selected bases in Connecticut, Montana, Minnesota and Illinois, all of which were funded by Congress in the past two budgets. All of the units will get the modernized aircraft pending an environmental impact analysis, which will likely be completed in fiscal year 2025.

When advocating for Bradley in March, Connecticut officials noted in a letter to U.S. Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall III that the base has undergone about $100 million in facility updates and modernization over the past 10 years. The 103rd Airlift Wing, known as the “Flying Yankees,” is stationed at Bradley Air National Guard Base. In recent years, the unit has worked on missions like troop movement, hurricane relief and joint North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) exercises.

The decision was praised by Connecticut’s entire congressional delegation as well as Gov. Ned Lamont. In Congress’ past two annual defense policy bills, Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, played a role in securing millions of dollars for the aerospace ground equipment and vehicle maintenance facility at Bradley Air National Guard Base.

“As Ranking Member of the Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee with oversight over Air Force and Air National Guard airlift programs, including the C-130J basing process, I, along with my Connecticut colleagues, personally raised the issue with Air Force leadership including Secretary Kendall and advocated on behalf of our National Guard personnel in Connecticut for the Air National Guard to select Bradley as a basing location for these new aircraft,” Courtney said.

“Today’s decision is a result of that advocacy and steady, persistent work to upgrade the base infrastructure that General [Francis] Evon, his predecessor, Thad Martin, and their talented team have executed over the last decade,” he added, referring to leadership at the Connecticut National Guard. “This is a proud day for our state.”

The C-130J Super Hercules, manufactured by Lockheed Martin, is the latest upgrade to the C-130 fleet. The new planes can carry more than 40,000 pounds, travel at faster speeds and take off and land within shorter distances.

Because of the upgrades already made to the base, Bradley would not need any construction funding to support the new aircraft, according to the March letter from Lamont and the Connecticut congressional delegation. They also wrote that as the Air Force assessed which bases would receive the upgrades to replace aging fleets, Bradley was found to have the lowest construction costs of all candidates being considered.

Defense plays a major role in Connecticut as well as the state’s economy, especially when it comes to military and aerospace contracts. And it has been a particular priority for federal lawmakers in Congress, including those who sit on committees that have jurisdiction over the armed services.

“This decision reflects the confidence that the Air National Guard and the U.S. Air Force have in the Flying Yankees and the airmen and airwomen of the 103rd Airlift Wing,” Lamont said in a statement. “It is fitting that Connecticut, a leading aerospace state, will now have the most modern platform for this critical flying Guard Base mission.”

The Connecticut Mirror/Connecticut Public Radio federal policy reporter position is made possible, in part, by funding from the Robert and Margaret Patricelli Family Foundation and Engage CT.

This story was originally published by the Connecticut Mirror.

Lisa Hagen is CT Public and CT Mirror’s shared Federal Policy Reporter. Based in Washington, D.C., she focuses on the impact of federal policy in Connecticut and covers the state’s congressional delegation. Lisa previously covered national politics and campaigns for U.S. News & World Report, The Hill and National Journal’s Hotline.

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