Two different aircraft the Pentagon says the nation no longer needs are playing a prominent role in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, while National Guard leaders and elected officials fight to keep the aircraft in their fleet.
One Florida Army Guard C-23 Sherpa delivered 6,500 pounds of Meals Ready to Eat from Fort Belvoir, Va., to Farmingdale, N.Y., over the weekend. On Monday, it transported disaster response experts from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to New Jersey.
Meanwhile, C-27J Spartan aircraft and crews from the Maryland, Mississippi and Ohio Air National Guard have been transporting personnel and equipment to New York.
The C-23 and C-27J are small fixed-wing cargo planes capable of landing on runways that may prohibit other military aircraft. The C-23 has been in the Guard for more than 20 years; the C-27J for two years. Both also have seen duty overseas, where they have been praised for their flexibility, reliability and cost-efficiency. Yet both are on the Pentagon chopping block.
“This is a case where the Pentagon simply doesn’t like small cargo aircraft, even if they demonstrate their value to the nation every time out,” said retired Maj. Gen. Gus Hargett Jr., president of the National Guard Association of the United States, a group of nearly 45,000 current or former Guard officers.
“The Army and the Air Force say these planes are unneeded, but there are thousands of ground troops who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan who would disagree, and now, so would tens of thousands of people in New Jersey and New York,” he added. “But the Pentagon remains determined.”
The Army is scheduled this month to take both of the Florida Army Guard’s C-23s and two aircraft from the Texas Army Guard. And the Air Force planned to divest the C-27J in its fiscal 2013 budget request.
The Army’s determination has caught the attention of the governors of Florida and Texas and some lawmakers.
Gov. Rick Scott, R-Fla., and Gov. Rick Perry, R-Texas, wrote President Barack Obama on Oct. 11 asking him to intervene.
In Congress, Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., is asking colleagues to sign a letter to Army Secretary John McHugh requesting his “commitment to ensure that the C-23 fleet remains operational until a viable alternative is identified.”
Hunter, a member of the House Armed Services Committee and co-chair of the House National Guard and Reserve Components Caucus, is asking that the letter be signed and delivered to McHugh this week.
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