In letter to Air Force, Congress members say Niagara Base and 914th Airlift Wing are well positioned for refueling mission
Congress members Brian Higgins, Chris Collins and Louise Slaughter are urging the United States Air Force to consider the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station as a new base for operation of the KC-135 mission.
"The KC-135 mission has a history in Niagara Falls and we want it to have a future here, too," Higgins said. "It's important to continue to look at ways the station here can evolve to meet the needs of today and tomorrow and strengthen its significance in the system. The Niagara Falls base has critical infrastructure and personnel to make this a perfect fit."
"Niagara Falls Air Force Base has the personnel and critical infrastructure to successfully support the KC-135 mission," Collins said. "I am happy to partner with my congressional colleagues as we work towards modernizing the base's mission and making this base BRAC-proof."
"As New Yorkers, we have always stood ready to answer the call to serve," Slaughter said. "One of the proudest events of my time in Congress was representing the Niagara Falls Reserve Station, known nationwide for its extraordinary work. With a proud military tradition and leading modern capabilities, Western New York is ideally positioned to continue advancing our national defense by hosting the KC-135 mission. I am proud to stand with my fellow New Yorkers and am especially grateful to my friend Brian Higgins for his leadership on this issue."
The KC-135 Stratotanker has been the primary refueling aircraft for the Air Force for 60 years. The Air Force may be looking to rebase some of the KC-135 tankers as some existing sites transition to the new KC-46.
According to a 2012 report, the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station supports close to 3,300 jobs and has a total economic impact of more than $200 million annually.
Below is the text of the letter sent by Reps. Higgins, Collins and Slaughter:
October 29, 2015
General Carlton D. Everhart
Air Mobility Command
Dear General Everhart,
As the United States Air Force (USAF) changes and modernizes to meet new mission requirements and emerging national security challenges, we remain committed to ensuring that the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station (NFARS) continues to play an integral role in this process by providing it with an enduring mission that effectively leverages its high quality workforce, infrastructure and location.
Since transitioning to the C-130 mission, the 914th Airlift Wing of the Air Force Reserve and the 107th Airlift Wing of the Air National Guard have made immense contributions to USAF's global mobility mission, conducting thousands of cargo lift operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and domestically. The 914th currently flies 8 C-130 H2 aircraft while the 107th is transitioning to a Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) mission.
However, as the USAF endeavors to draw down its aging C-130 fleet, we believe it is an opportune time to consider a new and enduring mission that will take advantage of NFARS' existing capabilities.
To that end, along with New York State, we strongly supported NFARS' selection as the site for the KC-46A's third main operating base (MOB-3). While NFARS was not down-selected to host this new generation of refueling tankers, key tanker infrastructure exists at the base that would make NFARS an ideal candidate for the KC-135, which will remain a key cog in the USAF's air refueling capability as efforts to recapitalize the tanker fleet undergo acquisition delays.
Enhancing its merit, the 107th Air Refueling Wing previously supported the KC-135 mission, having flown this airframe for over a decade until it transitioned to the cargo lift mission following the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) process. To that end, NFARS retains much of the key tanker infrastructure, including fuel storage, fuel dispensing, and reinforced runway and ramp. We believe that an USAF review of the infrastructure would confirm that minimal expenditures would be required to reprise these assets. We invite you to visit NFARS in the near future in order to examine these capabilities, and are confident you will see its viability for the KC-135 mission.
As the largest employer in Niagara County and a key part of our national security infrastructure, we remain committed to ensuring NFARS is well positioned to contribute to the national defense now and in the future. We greatly appreciate your continued support and look forward to working with you as the rebasing of the KC-135 moves forward.
Louise M. Slaughter
Members of Congress
CC: Lieutenant General James Jackson
Chief of the Air Force Reserve