WASHINGTON — Oklahoma lawmakers succeeded on two fronts Thursday to save AWACS planes and a Reserve unit that flies them at Tinker Air Force Base.
The full House approved a defense bill that would protect three of the seven planes that the Air Force wants to retire from Tinker.
Over in the Senate, Sen. Jim Inhofe said a defense bill he helped write would retain all of the AWACS.
“We’re really dealing with a national asset here, both in personnel and in aircraft,’’ Rep. Tom Cole said after the House vote. “Once you lose them, they’re gone.”
Cole, R-Moore, represents Tinker and serves on the committee that will now have to come up with the money to protect the AWACS from the Air Force cuts.
The Air Force, facing tight budgets now and possibly tighter ones in the future, proposed retiring seven of the 27 AWACS at Tinker and dedicating all of the remaining ones to the active duty unit that flies them.
Rep. Jim Bridenstine, R-Tulsa, a retired Navy pilot, authored an amendment to retain three of the planes and keep those associated with the Reserve unit at Tinker that is the only one in the nation that flies AWACS planes.
AWACS stands for Airborne Warning and Control System. The planes are equipped with a rotating radar dome with a range of 250 miles. The planes can detect enemy aircraft and ship movements and quickly relay information needed for battle situations.
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