Belgrade News: Malmstrom may get new transport mission

HELENA — The U.S. Air Force said Wednesday it may station a new transport mission at the Montana Air National Guard in Great Falls. But the announcement raised questions from members of the state’s Congressional delegation about the future of the base’s F-15 fighter jet mission.

MANG’s base is the “preferred location” for a fleet of C-27J turboprop transport planes, the Air Force said. A final decision on the plan won’t be made until June.

The C-27J features short take-off and landing capabilities that give troops access to airstrips they can’t reach in other fixed-wing aircraft, the Air Force said.

But Rep. Denny Rehberg, R-Mont., the state’s lone member of the U.S House of Representatives, said losing Montana’s F-15 mission to C-27Js would be a step backward. The Air Force has previously said it may move the F-15 mission to the Fresno Air National Guard base in Fresno, Calif.

“The news that our Air Guard landed a C-27J mission is overshadowed by the loss of our F-15s,” Rehberg said in a statement Wednesday afternoon. “Montana keeps trading horses, and each time, we’re a little closer to the ground. Montanans are proud of our contributions to national defense and the hard work and excellent operations run out of MANG.

Read the whole article »