GREAT FALLS — The Montana Air National Guard learned Thursday morning that its 120th Airlift Wing has been selected as one of four preferred locations for new C-130J Super Hercules aircraft.
The 120th Airlift Wing will receive eight of the new planes. Other locations to receive the aircraft are Minneapolis, Minnesota, Peoria, Illinois, and Hartford, Connecticut.
The C-130J planes will replace the C-130H models which have been aging out for several years. The new planes will help to, “reduce manpower requirements, lower operating and support costs, and provide life-cycle cost saving over earlier C-130 models,” per a press release from the 120th Airlift Wing.
The new aircraft will require pilots to undergo re-training due to new engines and avionic capabilities. New maintenance training will also proceed. Some guard positions will be lost with the aircraft’s arrival but those positions will be appropriately re-assigned.
“We've never had new paint in the Montana Air National Guard. Every other plane we have had has been a hand-me-down. These are going to be brand spanking new C-130’s. We competed with the best of the best and we won,” says Governor Greg Gianforte.
“This is a serious investment by the Air Force in our Montana Air National Guard. And it's good news for recruitment. It's good news for the sustainability of our Guard moving forward,” added U.S. Senator Jon Tester.
Brigadier General Buel Dickson held a press conference in one of the hangar’s on-base. He touched on how the planes will reinforce the wing’s strength for years to come.
“The planes will be a 15 year plus for us for longevity in the wing, and that will really help our airmen settle in, learn their new job, and understand how they work,” said Dickson.
Pending environmental analysis, the C-130J aircrafts will begin arriving on base between fiscal year’s 2026 and 2028. Pilots will ideally be trained before the planes arrive. Upon arriving in Great Falls, the planes should be operational within the year.