Washington, D.C. — Today, Congresswoman Elise Stefanik and Congressman Paul Tonko (D-NY) led a bipartisan letter with members from the New York congressional delegation urging Department of Defense (DoD) Secretary Lloyd Austin to immediately update the New York Air National Guard’s LC-130H “Skibird” planes which are the only planes in the world that provide strategic airlift capability in the Arctic and Antarctic regions. Updating the New York Air National Guard’s LC-130Hs is essential to the mission of the 109th Airlift Wing which operates out of Stratton Air National Guard Base.

In the letter, the lawmakers state, “We write with deep concern regarding the United States’ ability to maintain a strategic presence in the Arctic and Antarctic regions due to the aging LC-130 Hercules (LC-130H) fleet. The LC-130Hs, operated by the New York Air National Guard’s 109th Airlift Wing, are the only platform in the world that can provide critical logistical support in the Arctic and Antarctica, yet these planes are reaching the end of their operational capacity, and the Department of Defense is not acting with the necessary urgency to recapitalize these planes.”

The lawmakers continue, “As Russia and the People’s Republic of China (PRC) continue to advance their interests in the Arctic and Antarctic regions, it is critical that the United States maintain a robust presence in these regions…Increasing tensions, emerging capabilities, and global instability have opened the polar regions to be the next theaters for great power competition and the United States must be prepared to counter and deter this threat. This will require consistent and persistent U.S. presence in the North and South poles. To accomplish this, the United States relies solely on the LC-130H aircraft to transport equipment and supplies to within the polar regions.”

Reps. Stefanik and Tonko were joined by Tenney, Lawler, Williams, Malliotakis, D’Esposito, Garbarino, Lalota, Morelle, Ryan, Molinaro, and Langworthy.

Find the full letter here.