WASHINGTON, DC - Today, Rep. Rob Wittman (R-VA), Chairman of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces, made the following remarks, as prepared for delivery, on the Subcommittee's joint hearing titled “Contributing Factors to C-130 Mishaps and Other Intra-Theater Airlift Challenges.” For testimony and to watch the hearing click here.
"Today the subcommittee convenes to receive testimony on Contributing Factors to C-130 Mishaps and Other Intra-Theater Airlift Challenges.
The distinguished panel of Air Force and Navy leaders testifying before us are:
• Lieutenant General Jerry D. Harris, Deputy Chief of Staff for Strategic Plans & Programs Department of the Air Force
• Lieutenant General Donald Kirkland, Commander, Air Force Sustainment Center Department of the Air Force; and
• Rear Admiral Scott D. Conn Director, Air Warfare, Office of the Chief of Naval Operations Department of the Navy
Gentlemen, thank you for being with us today.
Recently there has been an alarming rise in non- combat aviation accidents. From fiscal years 2013 to 2017, manned fighter, bomber, helicopter, and cargo warplane accidents rose nearly 40 percent – resulting in the loss of over 130 service members in aviation mishaps. Of these incidents, over 20 percent of fatalities occurred in 3 accidents involving legacy intra-theater airlift C-130H Hercules, KC-130T, and C-2A Greyhound aircraft operated by the Puerto Rico Air National Guard (PRANG), USMC Reserve, and Navy active duty respectfully.
Considering these three mishaps involved legacy intra-theater aircraft, it is my fervent belief that the Services must do everything possible to ensure the safety of flight. To this end, among the things this committee must consider is the recapitalization and modernization of the oldest and most vulnerable legacy aircraft.
A review of the Air Force’s intra-theater airlift portfolio shows that the Service is on track to recapitalize its Regular component units with C-130J aircraft. Air Force is also recommending that the Reserve and Air National Guard retain significant capacity in legacy C-130H aircraft. To extend the life and relevance of the legacy Guard and Reserve fleet, the Air Force is recommending funding for major modernization programs, such as center wing box replacement, to lengthen service life in addition to pursuing aviation modernization program upgrades to keep these aging aircraft relevant. This committee has been active in supporting propulsion system upgrades for legacy C-130 aircraft in the Reserve Component by authorizing additional funds for this important effort. To date, the Air Force has not requested this funding in its base budget.
A review of Marine intra-theater airlift shows that the Service is on track to fully recapitalize its aging KC-130T fleet with 79 new KC-130J aircraft, to include its Reserve squadrons, by 2023.
And finally, the Navy plans to begin capitalizing its legacy KC-130T fleet of 25 aircraft by procuring its first 3 aircraft in 2023. With that said, questions remain as to the level of effort being placed in the pursuit of this program by the Navy and Air Force resource sponsors as they seek to balance the needs of competing service priorities. Additionally, there is concern over how the Services responded to the crash of the KC-130T and PRANG C-130H with Navy and Marines grounding their fleets and Air Force choosing to continue flying. And more specifically, this committee is interested in learning how and why the Legacy C-130 propeller systems are serviced differently between the Marine Corps and Air National Guard aircraft at the depots.
George Patton once said, 'the more you sweat in peace, the less you bleed in war.' Our most urgent responsibility is to ensure enough sweat is being shed to reduce this bleeding."