Reports have emerged that Little Rock Air Force Base is in line for a major infusion of the Air Force’s most advanced cargo plane. By one acount it will get 10 C-130Js for flying by the reserve units that train at the Jacksonville base.
A permanent assignment of the new plane has been a hard-fought goal of former U.S. Rep. Vic Snyder and U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor for nearly a decade. Pryor’s office said it is unable to comment on the development. Nothing has been announced officially. The fiscal 2015 budget with details on realignments is expected to be released next week.
The early news comes from the Fayetteville Observer, a newspaper in the hometown of Fort Bragg. That paper reports it has learned Bragg is losing its airlift wing with retirement of an older model C-130. A contingent of C-130Js had been expected at Bragg from Mississippi, but the newspaper reports that the planes are going instead to LRAFB. The paper says a new airlift group would be activated here.
North Carolina congressmen can be expected to fight the change. Mark Pryor’s seat on the defense appropriations committee will be helpful.
It’s uncertain what, if anything, the permanent assignment of the planes could mean to the base in terms of permanent personnel or new construction, but it’s a very big deal in terms of the base’s long-term stability and protection from future force reductions. LRAFB is already the country’s biggest C-130 base and the top training school for pilots, with simulators already in place for training 130-J flyers. It would become even more essential with this allotment of the latest model planes. The base got its first 130J in 2004.
Planes based here will go to world troublespots when airflift capabilities are needed. They won’t be devoted strictly to training.