Kentucky Air Guard to receive C-130J Hercules aircraft

  • Published
  • By Dale Greer
  • 123rd Airlift Wing Public Affairs
The Kentucky Air National Guard’s 123rd Airlift Wing will soon receive C-130J Hercules aircraft from the United States Air Force, Gov. Andy Beshear and Kentucky’s Congressional Delegation jointly announced today.

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 and 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.

“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,” U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell said. "As Senate Majority Leader, it was a privilege to help bring these aircraft to the Bluegrass State. For several years, my colleagues in the delegation and I have supported the necessary federal funding for these planes and highlighted Kentucky’s critical role in defending our country. (Air Force) Secretary Barbara Barrett made an excellent choice for the new C-130J aircraft, and I look forward to the 123rd Airlift Wing’s continued excellence at home and abroad.”

Beshear also praised the unit for its commitment to service and outstanding performance.

“The Kentucky National Guard has protected this country for generations, and are now protecting us during this pandemic,” he 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.