The next generation of cargo planes could make Missouri its future home. Missouri has put the weight of its entire Congressional delegation behind the 139th Airlift Wing’s efforts to upgrade its fleet in the northwest part of the state.

Every member, Republican and Democrat, has signed onto a letter to the Air National Guard Director expressing support to transfer eight C-130J aircraft to the Air Guard base at Rosecrans Memorial Airport in St. Joseph.

Northern Missouri Congressman Sam Graves, a Republican, says the united front is important.

“The 139th is just vitally important to our entire area and the economy and national defense for that matter, too,” Graves told Missourinet affiliate KFEQ in St. Joseph. “So, this is a huge step in the right direction and we just need to keep working it.”

Graves remains confident the 139th will receive the next generation of C-130 cargo planes.

“I’m pretty optimistic, to be honest with you. Obviously the letter was a good step in that direction,” Graves said.

Rosecrans is also home to the 139th’s Advanced Airlift Tactics Training Center, which trains pilots in the latest military tactics, hosting pilots not just from the United States, but from all over the world.

Graves, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, said recent investments at Rosecrans by local and state governments to build a new runway, as well as a new terminal and air traffic control tower, will help in that bid.

“It does. It shows our commitment to make sure that they (have) everything that they need out there at Rosecrans,” according to Graves. “Obviously, it’s a joint use facility. So, you have general aviation there as well as a military mission. And it shows our commitment to making sure that they have everything that they need.”

Rosecrans has been undergoing major renovations. Construction of a new runway is underway. A new terminal will be constructed. Nearly all the funding needed to erect a new air traffic control tower has been secured.

Those renovations should put the 139th in a favorable position to receive the C-130J planes, according to Graves.

“It’s a partnership. It’s federal dollars. It’s local dollars. And it’s state dollars,” Graves pointed out, “And everybody has stepped up to the plate and that sends pretty strong message to the folks that are going to be making that decision.”

The Missouri Congressional delegation sent the letter to the Director of the Air National Guard, Lieutenant General Michael A. Loh.

Story by Brent Martin of Missourinet affiliate KFEQ in St. Joseph