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YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — The last batch of newer C-130 aircraft is expected to arrive at Yokota this spring, the Air Force announced.

The 36th Airlift Squadron’s C-130E is being replaced by the sleeker C-130H model in a fleet upgrade that began last year, Maj. David Westover, a 374th Airlift Wing spokesman, said Thursday. Three of the newer planes are scheduled to arrive in March; another is to touch down in May after a scheduled maintenance session.

The conversion also will bring about 50 additional people — all air crew — and their family members to Yokota by the end of March.

“As part of a phased approach which began last year, we have received 10 C-130H models so far,” Westover said. “We’ve averaged about one or two aircraft, H models swapped for E models, per month over the last several months.”

The age of the base’s existing planes, which were from 30 to 40 years old, was the driving factor behind the plan, the Air Force said when it announced the switch in August 2005.

The C-130H is about 10 years younger than the E version and there are some minor mechanical differences, such as updated gauges. But the aircraft’s size and capacity are the same.

The final shipment to Yokota is part of a realignment of forces in Alaska, the Air Force said Tuesday. It plans to close Kulis Air National Guard Base in Alaska and move the aircraft at the installation to Elmendorf Air Force Base by September 2011.

As part of the shift, several C-130H aircraft will be transferred to Elmendorf; C-130H aircraft already at the base will be sent to Yokota to replace the older C-130E aircraft there, officials said.

The 36th Airlift Squadron’s C-130 count will rise from 13 to 14 aircraft, the standard size for a squadron, Westover said. Base officials don’t expect an increase in maintenance personnel due to the change because current facilities are adequate to support the new planes and extra aircrew members.

He said the E models that have departed either were transferred to other Air Force units or flown to the Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Center at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz.

The 36th is the Pacific’s only forward-based tactical airlift squadron. It maintains C-130 mission-ready air crews that conduct theater airlift, special operations, aeromedical evacuation, search- and-rescue, repatriation and humanitarian-relief missions.

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