Thursday, October 1, 2009

Air Guard should use NGREA for C-130 AMP

With the Defense Appropriations Bill going into conference shortly, I am concerned with the fact that the C-130 Aviation Modernization Program fell off the table in both the House and Senate versions of the bill. To keep the program alive this year, $49 million is needed – a drop in the bucket to modernize the workhorse aircraft in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Everybody knows the C-130 is an aged aircraft and there is no end in sight for its use. The C-130 AMP upgrades the Air Force C-130s to a common cockpit with necessary compliance to communications, navigation, surveillance (CNS) and Air Traffic Management requirements.

The AMP modification provides enhanced digital avionics and increased situational awareness for the warfighter over the legacy analog flight deck. AMP will dramatically increase information available to aircrews at a glance, simplify tasks and decrease workload. It also improves system reliability and maintainability, which ensures higher mission readiness capability and mission completion rates.

Of considerable importance to the Reserve Components is using compatible weapons systems with their Active Duty counterparts. Implementation of the C-130 AMP common flight deck simplifies the training logistics requirements and operational employment for Total Force Integration.

With a significant percentage of the Air Force C-130 fleet being in the Air Force Reserve Components, the Reserve Officers Association has an interest in seeing this program survive.

Given the lack of funding for the program in the defense appropriations bills and with the potential for the Guard to receive over $100 million for their equipment account, perhaps the Guard should keep the program alive on its own if the big Air Force isn’t going to do the right thing by advocating this program's necessity.

The Reserve Officers Association has urged the Congress to fully support and fund AMP, but they failed. It’s time to get creative for a solution to this problem.

Gen Norton Schwartz, the Air Force Chief of Staff who grew up on the C-130 platform in special operations, said at the Air Force Association conference in September that the C-130 AMP program is a victim of affordability. While I can understand an argument such as this for a billion dollar program such as the F-22, it is a little hard to swallow for one that is only $49 million this year after the Air Force has already spent $1.5 billion developing the program.

He said the service will instead look to upgrading systems individually to make them compliant with international standards and that the AMP program won’t leave the testing phase. I am curious the cost savings of individual upgrades when each installed AMP is only $9 million now for an across the board, standardized fix. Instead, the Air Force is going back to the drawing board.

Director, Communications and Air Force Affairs
Reserve Officers Association

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