by Michael Lowrey
The N.C. Air National Guard, which is based at Charlotte Douglas International Airport, current flies eight C-130Hs. Under a new Air Force planning document, the unit would convert to C-17s in FY2018.
The plan includes another major change to a North Carolina-based unit in 2020, when the Air Force Reserve tanker unit at Seymour-Johnson would convert from ancient KC-135s to brand new KC-46s.
Update with Analysis: The N.C. Air National Guard move is highly interesting. While the C-130 is still in production, the Air Force isn’t buying enough to replace old C-130s with new C-130s on a one-for-one basis. Right now, the Air Force is looking to retire a bunch of old C-130s and it needs to give the National Guard and Air Force Reserve units that fly them something to do. Ergo, the CLT-based unit gets C-17s. The choice of converting Charlotte to C-17’s is particularly interesting as it’s one of the four C-130 units — the other three are in the western U.S. — that is specially trained to do aerial firefighting.