The active duty force at Dover AFB could be reduced by up to 175 positions if the Air Force is required to move four C-5s to a backup inventory.

The active duty force at Dover Air Force Base could lose more than 170 airmen if the Fiscal Year 2015 Department of Defense budget, released March 10, is approved by Congress.

The job losses would come if the Air Force is successful in its plans to relegate four additional C-5M aircraft to backup status.

The base has 16 C-5M Super Galaxy aircraft on base, with two more to be assigned once upgrades are complete.

Under the plan, the four C-5Ms would be removed from active flying status and placed into the Air Force’s Backup Aircraft Inventory along with two others already in that standby status. These are planes held in reserve in the event they are needed to take the place of prime aircraft that breakdown or must undergo periodic maintenance.

The aircraft would remain assigned to Dover’s active duty 436th Airlift Wing, which shares the Super Galaxies with the base’s associate U.S. Air Force Reserve 512th Airlift Wing.

Dover’s fleet of C-17 Globemaster III aircraft would not be affected.

However, the relegation of the C-5s to BAI status would mean the loss of 175 active duty airmen who fly and maintain those planes.

In a statement released by the wing’s Public Affairs office, wing commander Col. Rick Moore said, “Limited resources require the Air Force to make difficult choices to balance readiness, capability and capacity to remain ready to meet all challenges.

“The proposed FY ’15 budget repositions the Air Force to focus on the strategic challenges and opportunities that will define our future.”

There is no distinction between primary and backup aircraft when it comes to flying and maintenance, Moore said. The only difference is that with fewer primary aircraft assigned to the wing, there will be a commensurate decrease in manpower authorizations and therefore less cost.

Mission readiness will not be affected, Moore said.

“It is important to note that these changes are reversible, which provides us with the flexibility to respond to challenges anywhere,” he said.

512th Air Wing spokeswoman Master Sgt. Veronica Aceveda said the Air Force Reserve as a whole is expected to lose approximately 3,300 personnel under the proposed budget, but that it’s too early to know how the Liberty Wing will be affected.

“The manpower decrease is expected to be manageable and absorbable through vacancies, retirements and possible re-training,” she said.

Dover’s cadre of C-5s has been undergoing a multi-year, multi-million dollar program to upgrade the plane’s avionics to include all-digital cockpits, communications and enhanced navigation and safety aids. New engines have increased the C-5’s mission readiness numbers, and allow the plane to fly faster while reducing noise and fuel consumption.

Cuts could affect New Castle

The cutbacks have caused considerable talk about the future of the Delaware National Guard’s 166th Airlift Wing at New Castle County Airport.

“There’s been a lot of speculation,” acknowledged Air National Guard spokesman Lt. Col. Len Gratteri. “However, there’s a lot to be done between a proposed budget and one being passed.”

The 166th flies the older C-130H Hercules cargo aircraft. Prior to Monday, the Air Force had considered placing an active duty C-130 wing at the airport, which would have flown the newer C-130J along with National Guard airmen.

Currently active duty units fly both models, but are transitioning exclusively to the more modern C-130J, Gratteri said. Fewer people are needed to fly and maintain the J models, which also carry a larger load.

The older H models use older and nearly obsolete avionics, which means they won’t be able to be flown overseas.

“To fly to Afghanistan, Europe and Southwest Asia, you have to have a certain avionics package and the H model doesn’t have that,” Gratteri said.

Gratteri acknowledged that not receiving the more modern C-130 eventually could end the flying mission at New Castle.

“Down the road, that’s definitely possible,” he said.

The Air Force also is expected to retire the entire A-10 Thunderbolt II fleet, as well as all U-2 aircraft. Divesting the service of these aircraft will save billions of dollars because retiring them also saves costs on personnel, logistics, infrastructure and base operations.

In addition, the Air Force will cut the number of tactical fighters, such as the F-15 and reduce the number of personnel serving in uniform to match the funding levels Congress is expected to authorize.