Skip to content


Stratton Air National Guard Base’s One-of-a-Kind LC-130H Aircraft, Used For Essential NSF Climate Research, Polar Rescue And Maintaining U.S. Leadership In The North & South Poles, Are Up to Five Decades Old & In Constant Need Of Repairs, Creating A Dangerous Amount Of Uncertainty For Airlift Missions

Schumer Visited Earlier This Year, And Now Has Made Major Progress By Authorizing Fed $$$ For Ski-Birds In The FY2025 Senate NDAA; Says Now House Needs To Back Funding, Too, So New Planes For Stratton Can Be Funded In End-Of-Year Appropriations

Schumer: Wheels Are In Motion To Land New Ski-Birds For The 109th Airlift Wing & Capital Region!

After standing at Stratton Air National Guard Base in Scotia earlier this year, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer today announced he secured $290 million in the Senate’s National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2025 (FY25) in a major step forward to replacing the two oldest aircraft in the fleet with two LC-130Js, the newest ski-bird model.

Schumer has been tirelessly advocating to recapitalize the aging LC-130H fleet, which are the only ski-equipped heavy airlift aircraft capable of flying to the Arctic and Antarctica, and are a vital component of supporting U.S. national security interests and scientific research in the Polar regions. Schumer explained that with these aircraft quickly approaching the end of their service life, securing this $290 million authorization is a massive step forward in his push to deliver these planes for the 109th Airlift Wing (AW). Now Schumer said the House needs to follow suit as he fights hard to deliver funding in end-of-year appropriations.

“Today, we are setting the wheels in motion to deliver $290 million to the New York Air National Guard’s elite 109th Airlift Wing to upgrade their one-of-a-kind LC-130H ski-bird fleet, which is critical to supporting the National Science Foundation’s polar research mission and maintaining U.S. presence and leadership in the Arctic and Antarctic. After more than three decades of year-round service in some of the harshest environments, these planes have been falling into disrepair and are in constant need of maintenance, threatening aircrew safety and their ability to execute their mission.  That’s why for years I have been pushing the Air Force to recapitalize this essential fleet so new planes can land in the Capital Region. Now, thanks to my efforts, $290 million was just secured in the Senate’s national defense bill to authorize the replacement of their two oldest planes with two, brand new LC-130Js,” said Senator Schumer. “We need the House to follow suit as we continue the fight to deliver this funding in end-of-year appropriations.  There is no time to waste in delivering new ski-birds for the 109th and I will continue to fight tooth and nail to secure this funding in the final bill.”

Major General Ray Shields, Adjutant General of the New York National Guard, said, “I thank Senator Schumer for his steadfast advocacy and support on behalf of the men and women of the New York Air National Guard.  Obtaining two new LC-130J Ski Bird aircraft in the FY-2025 NDAA is vital for our national security, and supports the Department of Defense’s Arctic Strategy, as well as the National Science Foundation missions in Antarctica and the Arctic. Senator Schumer has long been an advocate for the New York National Guard and most recently obtained $90 million for Manhattan’s Lexington Avenue Armory rehabilitation.”

Schumer personally wrote to Air Force Secretary Kendall to urge the Air Force to prioritize recapitalizing the LC-130H, fleet and in April, he personally visited the 109th Airlift Wing—the only U.S. military unit in the world that flies these aircraft—in person to double down and launch a push to secure $290 million for two new LC-130Js. As he explained during his visit, this funding is critical for protecting U.S. national security interests, enhancing U.S. competitiveness with Russia and the People’s Republic of China (PRC), maximizing aircrew safety, and to continue supporting cutting-edge research in the polar regions which include finding solutions to limit global warming and combat climate change. Now, with the authorization of the full $290 million in the FY25 NDAA, Schumer says he will continue fighting to make sure this funding is secured in the end-of-year appropriations bill.

“LC-130H ‘Skibirds’ are the only U.S. military planes capable of carrying out the Arctic and Antarctic mission set. This unique capability means that the LC-130H fleet – flown by our very own New York Air National Guard’s 109th Airlift Wing – is vital to protecting our interests in the polar regions,” said Senator Gillibrand. “These aircraft allow us to assist with critical scientific research and protect our national security interests in the Arctic and Antarctic. But these planes have reached the end of their lifespans, limiting our aircrews and risking American leadership in the Arctic. That is why I am proud to have secured $290 million in the bipartisan Senate version of the National Defense Authorization Act to add new LC-130Js to the LC-130H fleet and make sure we can continue to conduct critical polar missions and protect our security interests.”

Schumer explained after more than 30 years, these planes—several of which were built in the 1970s and operate on technology developed in the 1950s—are rapidly approaching the end of their service life, jeopardizing mission success, aircrew and operator safety, and U.S. national security. Schumer said the airplanes often suffer reliability issues and high maintenance costs, with only five planes out of the ten total in the fleet being mission capable at any given time. Additionally, nearly all of the aircraft in the fleet have parts that require total replacement, but the 109th AW is unable to make the necessary fixes because those parts are no longer in production due to the aircraft’s age and commodity. With both U.S. Northern Command (NORTHCOM), which oversees the polar airlift mission, and 109th AW, which supports the NSF’s polar science research missions and is the only U.S. military unit in the world that flies these planes, expressing the urgent need to recapitalize, Schumer took action to push for this major fed funding and upgrade the fleet to support U.S. national security and scientific research.

The LC-130 is also a necessity for maintaining and strengthening the United States’ presence, operations, and research in the Arctic and Antarctica. The Arctic is a region of growing strategic importance, and to compete on a global scale, especially with China and Russia who are expanding their presence in the region, it is vital that the U.S. has the advanced capabilities needed to expand its presence in the region.