RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany — It will be more than a year before the C-130J begins replacing the fleet of the venerable C-130E Hercules here, but local airmen are getting some exposure to the newer aircraft thanks to a visiting unit.

Members of the Air National Guard’s 143rd Airlift Wing out of Quonset Air Base, R.I., have been proudly showing off one of the J models while at Ramstein this month.

“It handles great. It’s not as sluggish,” said Lt. Col. Todd Oliver, the wing’s active-duty adviser. “It’s still a C-130, of course, but it’s got more power.”

Oliver flew a few passes over Ramstein for members of the local German noise abatement committee who were meeting with base officials Thursday afternoon.

During the demonstration, Brig. Gen. Rich Johnston, commander of the 86th Airlift Wing, pointed to several features of the new J model that could reduce noise pollution. They include the aircraft’s ability to climb more quickly; its “hotel” mode, which can reduce the plane’s sound while on the ground; and the fact that it can hold more cargo, theoretically reducing the amount of trips, said Johnston, who also is commander of the Kaiserslautern Military Community.

“It’ll make a minor impact,” he said. “Not significant, but noticeable.”

Some of Ramstein’s aging C-130 fleet already have been retired to the “boneyard,” while the remaining 11 continue to require significant upkeep to stay in flying shape.

“One of the main things is, eventually it becomes cost-intensive for maintenance,” said Maj. Jason Terry, with U.S. Air Forces Europe headquarters at Ramstein.

What’s more, ensuring the older models are safe — particularly the wingbox — is also a constant concern, Terry said.

“We spend a lot of time keeping these aircraft in tip-top shape,” he said.

Last month, Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne and Chief of Staff Gen. T. Michael Moseley pleaded with members of the U.S. House Armed Services Committee to lift the restrictions on retiring aircraft such as the old C-130s.

“Please give us the authority to manage our inventory,” Mosley said during the Oct. 24 hearing in Washington.

Congress is considering the request as part of ongoing negotiations regarding passage of the latest Defense Authorization Bill.

In the meantime, the old C-130 planes, while aged, represent 40 years of successful and reliable combat and humanitarian air support around the world. The new J model can fly higher, farther, faster and more efficiently than its predecessor, though the old Hercules has cemented its place in history, Terry said.

“It’s a well-loved plane,” he said. “Most people associate this aircraft with bringing help.”

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