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Portman pursues new planes

VIENNA — U.S. Sen. Rob Portman said he’s working to get next-generation C-130J Super Hercules aircraft to the Youngstown Air Reserve Station.

The House approved a defense spending bill in July that includes $300 million for four C-130J aircraft.

Portman, a Cincinnati Republican, said during a Friday visit to YARS that he’s hopeful the bill will be voted on by the Senate before Nov. 21 when approval of a continuing resolution is needed to avert a government shutdown.

“We’re fighting to keep those Js in the mix,” he said of the planes. “We’re going to fight to have them come here, but they may go to another special mission base. There are four or five (special mission bases) around the country, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing for us because that means they’re starting to make the transition to Js on the special mission bases. But we, of course, would prefer them to come here. We’ve got room for them.”

YARS is home to the 910th Airlift Wing, the military’s only large-area fixed-wing aerial spray unit.

“Over the next several weeks we’ll see how the bill will” go, said Col. Joseph Janik, YARS commander.

But he said he was “hopeful and optimistic we can get the planes. We’re honored we’re even considered for the planes.”

The facility has eight C-130H planes that are from 1989 and 1990. It had four C-130H planes moved to other military bases in 2013.

Portman and other elected officials have pushed for years to get the Air Force to put new C-130Js at the base.

If the Senate approves the funding for the new planes, the Air Force would make the decision on what base would get them.

U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Howland, who sits on the House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee, has said YARS is in a good position to get the planes.

Meanwhile, Janik said Friday that the Western Reserve Port Authority is close to finalizing an agreement to purchase 42.3 acres on King Graves Road needed for a new main gate for the air reserve station.

The port authority will purchase the land for $391,000. After the deal is finalized, it will sell the property to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The federal government awarded an $8.8 million grant to relocate the main gate to improve security and the flow of people and cargo at the facility.

The gate groundbreaking will be in the late spring or early summer of next year and will take two years to complete, Janik said.

dskolnick@tribtoday.com

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