Nov. 25 (UPI) -- Three National Guard bases and a Navy Reserve base were selected to receive new C-130J Super Hercules cargo planes, the U.S. Air Force announced on Wednesday.
Louisville Air National Guard Base in Kentucky, McLaughlin ANGB in West Virginia and Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base in Texas are set to start receiving eight new aircraft each in the coming year.
Savannah ANGB in Georgia is also scheduled to receive C-130Js "if they become available in the future," officials said in a press release.
The Lockheed Martin-built planes are improvements over earlier C-130 variants they will replace, and offer reduced manpower requirements and operating and support costs, providing life-cycle cost savings, the Air Force said.
The C-130J climbs faster and higher, flies farther at a higher cruise speed, and takes off and lands in a shorter distance than its predecessors.
The new planes are equipped with integrated digital avionics and state-of-the-art navigation, including a dual inertial navigation system and GPS.
The aircraft also include fully integrated defensive systems, low-power color radar, new turboprop engines with six-bladed all-composite propellers and improved fuel, environmental and ice-protection systems.
"The West Virginia National Guard is exceptional and has worked tirelessly to ensure the 130th Airlift Wing in Charleston is the best home for the Air National Guard C-130J," Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va, said in a joint statement with Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va.
"The men and women of our National Guard are able to fulfill an expanded role with more capable and modern aircraft, and I know that our National Guard will continue to represent West Virginia well," the senators said.
The head of the House Armed Services Committee, though, suggested that placement of the new planes in Georgia was an attempt by the Air Force to influence the state's Senate election races.
The decision "could mar the service's historically repeatable, transparent, and deliberate strategic basing process, which until now has helped insulate basing decisions from political influence," Smith said.
Smith added including Georgia in the Air Force's basing decision "inherently politicizes the announcement amidst the ongoing Senate runoffs in the state."