While the U.S. Air Force wants to mothball its oldest Lockheed Martin [LMT] C-130s and move to a fleet of 255 Hercules airlifters from 300, the Senate Armed Services Committee’s (SASC) version of the fiscal 2022 National Defense Authorization Act advises a provision that would prohibit the service from going below 292.

As a first step to moving to 255, Air Force asked Congress to allow the service to retire eight C-130Hs in fiscal 2022, and, while the SASC NDAA bill allows the drawdown of eight, the measure “prohibits reduction in the Air Force’s C-130 total aircraft inventory below 292 aircraft,” according to a summary of the bill.

Air Force Lt. Gen. David Nahom, the service’s deputy chief of staff for plans and programs, said this month that the service is “working very closely” with the Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve, which own the older planes, “seeing if we can find, mutually agreeable replacement missions,” as the proposed Air Force cut of 45 C-130s represents “about five units” (Defense Daily, July 16).

Under one such replacement mission, the Air Force Reserve’s 357th Airlift Squadron, which has operated C-130Hs at Maxwell-Gunter, AFB, Ala., will become the formal training unit for the Air Force’s MH-139A Grey Wolf helicopter by Boeing [BA] and Leonardo. The remaining inventory of 255 C-130s “covers what we need for our tactical lift fleet and includes support to the homeland,” Nahom said. “The tactical lift fleet carries probably the least risk of any of our fleets in the Air Force. We’ve got some high risk in some of our fleets, and it’s not in the tactical lift so we’ve got to balance that risk across our portfolios.” In addition, future tactical lift in areas in which logistics is threatened will likely require new technologies, he said.

The Air Force fiscal 2022 budget request proposes the retirement of 201 aircraft to help pay for $28.8 billion in requested research and development funding–a $2.2 billion increase over the fiscal 2021 enacted level (Defense Daily, May 28).

The service has said it wants to position itself to face Russia and China while sustaining its capacity for engagements with less technologically advanced potential adversaries.

The proposed Air Force fiscal 2022 aircraft divestments, including the retirements of the eight C-130Hs, 48 Boeing F-15C/Ds, 42 A-10s, 18 KC-135s, 14 KC-10s, 47 Lockheed Martin F-16C/Ds, 20 Northrop Grumman [NOC] Block 30 RQ-4 Global Hawk drones and four Joint STARS aircraft, would save nearly $1.4 billion, the Air Force said.

The fiscal 2022 SASC NDAA bill would bar the A-10 retirements but would allow the retirement of “up to 18 KC-135 aircraft and 12 KC-10 aircraft in fiscal year 2022 to facilitate the acceleration of [Boeing] KC-46 bed down,” per the bill summary, which does not address the retirements of other aircraft types proposed by the Air Force.