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Senators Urge US Air Force To Modernize ‘Skibird’ Fleet

An urgent call has been made by Sens. Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand to the U.S. Air Force, urging the replacement of the aging fleet of LC-130 Hercules “Skibird” aircraft that is nearing the end of its operational life.

This fleet is vital for missions to the Arctic and Antarctica. 

The Unique Capabilities of the LC-130 ‘Skibird’

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The LC-130h “Skibird,” operated by the 109th Airlift Wing in Schenectady County, is among the only ski-equipped heavy airlift aircraft in the U.S. capable of landing on snow and ice.

This unique feature is crucial for operations in some of the world’s most remote parts.

Senators’ Push for Modernization

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In a concerted effort to modernize U.S. military capabilities, Senators Gillibrand and Schumer have initiated a push for the Air Force to replace these aircraft.

Their request emphasizes the Skibirds’ critical role in national security and scientific research.

A Letter to the Secretary 

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The senators addressed their concerns directly to Frank Kendall, the Secretary of the U.S. Air Force, outlining the imperative need to update the fleet.

They highlighted the aircraft’s over 30 years of service and the pressing need for modern aircraft to ensure the continuation of critical missions.

The Strategic Importance of the LC-130H

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Schumer underscored the strategic importance of the LC-130H aircraft in maintaining a U.S. presence in the Arctic and Antarctic.

These planes support national security and play a pivotal role in polar scientific missions, underpinning America’s leadership in these crucial regions.

National Security and Global Competition

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The aging fleet limits the Air National Guard’s operational capabilities.

It poses a national security threat, primarily as the U.S. competes with global powers like China and Russia for influence in the Arctic and Antarctic regions.

A Multifaceted Mission

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The Skibirds’ mission is multifaceted, encompassing everything from logistical support in polar regions to facilitating cutting-edge scientific research.

This diverse utility underscores the urgency of replacing the aging fleet with new, capable aircraft.

Prioritizing Safety and Efficacy

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The call to replace the Skibirds highlights a commitment to ensuring the safety of military personnel and the efficacy of their crucial missions.

The senators’ appeal stresses the importance of modern, reliable aircraft in executing these vital operations safely.

Schumer’s Commitment

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Senator Schumer has pledged to employ all means at his disposal to secure the replacement of the LC-130H fleet.

This commitment reflects the bipartisan recognition of the importance of maintaining America’s strategic and scientific interests in the polar regions.

The Role of the Operator 

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Based at Stratton, the 109th Airlift Wing has a unique responsibility as the operator of these specialized aircraft.

Their role is pivotal in executing missions that require the unique capabilities of the Skibirds, emphasizing the necessity of an updated fleet.

The Impact on Arctic and Antarctic Missions

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Replacing the LC-130H aircraft is not just about hardware; it’s about ensuring the United States continues leading Arctic and Antarctic exploration and research.

The update would guarantee continued support for critical missions in these remote regions.

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