THE HERALD-PALLADIUM: Upton: Bring transports to Mich.
Local rep. pushing Air Force to pick Battle Creek's W.K. Kellogg Airport as new base for quick deployment of C-27J or C-130 planes
Battle Creek, MI,
Jan 31 -
By Scott Aiken -
U.S. Rep. Fred Upton has asked that the Michigan Air National Guard base in Battle Creek become the new home of a unit of C-27J or C-130 transport aircraft.
The St. Joseph Republican said in a letter to Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley that the base has "continually modernized its assets and has nearly everything needed to host the mission, including three runways, one of them 10,000 feet long.
The base, at W.K. Kellogg Airport, has a strategic location, Upton said, at a time when there are few active duty Air Force installations in the upper Midwest.
"It is well-placed to deliver goods and personnel anywhere in the country on short notice," he said.
The airport is not in Upton's 6th District, though he represents two townships in Calhoun County.
Gov. Rick Snyder has also requested Battle Creek as a base for the aircraft.
The Air Force is expected to decide soon where it will base C-27J or C-130 aircraft as required by the National Defense Authorization Act for the current fiscal year.
The act requires the retention of 32 aircraft in addition to the number included in the force structure proposal presented by the Air Force to Congress in November.
If the Air National Guard base at Battle Creek is chosen, the aircraft would become part of the 110th Airlift Wing.
The unit traces its history back more than 60 years, during which it has flown seven types of aircraft and gone through six major reorganizations.
Its members saw service in Iraq and Afghanistan as the 110th Fighter Wing, supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom.
Until 2005 the 110th flew the A-10 Thunderbolt II, dubbed the Warthog, a twin-engine jet aircraft designed to provide close air support for ground troops.
Base realignment took away the A-10s and the wing was supposed to get the C-27J Spartan, the newest cargo aircraft in the Air Force inventory. But those aircraft have not been received.
Capable of carrying up to 68 troops, or 46 paratroopers, the C-27J's missions include direct support of Army units, homeland security, disaster response and medical evacuation.
The 110th also has a cyber defense mission, and flies the C-21 Cougar, the military version of the Lear Jet, to transport passengers and cargo.
The four-engine turboprop C-130 Hercules has been a mainstay in the Air Force for more than half a century.
Capt. Craig Warn, public information officer for the 110th Airlift Wing, said the unit has more than 900 members who travel to the base from around the region.
If Battle Creek is chosen, he said, the unit would likely get eight aircraft.
"It would be a great opportunity for our community," he said. "It would be huge for us."
In his letter to the Air Force secretary, Upton said the Battle Creek base and its personnel have prepared for the expected arrival of the C-27Js, but are also "more than capable" of accepting a C-130 mission instead.
Michigan Air National Guard units are considered to be reserve components of the Air Force.
In addition to federal reserve obligations, the Michigan ANG are state militia units that may be activated by order of the governor to preserve the peace or public safety.
State missions include disaster relief, search and rescue and civil defense.