To the editor:
Your article about the dangerous wildfire still threatening Yosemite National Park neglected to mention that the C-130 aircraft that battle these blazes are based on a 50-year old design using ancient technology that will soon be made obsolete by new civil aviation standards.
Yet the Pentagon just canceled the effort to modernize these planes and extend their service lives. It's another example of how short sighted decisions in Washington are making us less safe here in the Southwest and shortchanging our National Guard.
Taxpayers have already paid $2 billion to develop the upgrade program, known as the C-130 Avionics Modernization Program (AMP), and delivered five finished aircraft. At $9 million per plane, it's much cheaper than buying new. And not only do the AMP upgrades comply with the new civil aviation standards, these modernized C-130s have digital cockpits and advanced avionics that enable additional tactical missions like search and rescue and night flying in formation, all without a navigator on the crew.
Readying an old C-130s for night vision would require thirty minutes of taping up cockpit displays and other light sources to eliminate excess cabin light. The upgraded C-130s can use night vision with a flick of a switch.
When the midnight call comes in to pick up and fly a wounded soldier to a major hospital, that capability could save his life.
It's incredible that our National Guard is still relying on such antiquated equipment. Leaders in Washington shouldn't cancel the equipment upgrades they need.