Senator Lisa Murkowski is pleased to see that the amendment she filed to the 2014 National Defense Authorization Act to transfer eight surplus Army C-23 "Sherpa" aircraft to the State of Alaska has been added to the bill released yesterday by the House and Senate Armed Services Committee. The bill is expected to be considered in the Senate next week.
Murkowski's amendment requires the U.S. Army to offer title of eight specific aircraft, preselected by the State of Alaska to Governor Parnell free of charge in early 2014.
About 40 C-23 "Sherpa" Aircraft (photo below) are parked at Fort Sill, Oklahoma unused and awaiting disposition. The C-23 is designed to carry up to 30 passengers or 7,280 pounds of cargo and has a range capability of up to 1,030 nautical miles. These aircraft have been tremendously useful in providing manpower, food and aid to regions impacted by wildfires, floods and hurricanes -- from Hurricane Sandy relief to wildfire responses -- and could boost the State of Alaska's response capability to natural disasters like the Yukon River flood and the recent Western Alaska storms.
"When states are in need, these aircraft and their crews are humanitarian heroes and have proven themselves repeatedly to respond and deliver in the most trying circumstances," said Senator Murkowski. "These planes are sitting on a tarmac in Oklahoma when they could be put to use to save lives and provide relief in places like Galena, so I appreciate those working on the defense bill for seeing the value in allowing my state with its vast geography, terrain and challenges to have a chance to acquire eight of them."
The Army announced its intention to eliminate its entire fleet of 46 aircraft in 2011 and it moved the fleet to Fort Sill, Oklahoma in 2013 where they are presently parked awaiting divestiture. The Army formerly used the aircraft for intra-theatre troop and equipment transport, airdrop and medical evaluation. This intra-theatre mission has been reassigned to the Air Force which plans to use C-130 aircraft for its execution.
Murkowski added an amendment in the 2012 NDAA requiring that the Army offer the C-23s to the Governors of the states that previously operated them before offering them to other federal agencies or selling them as surplus.