President's budget to include KC-135 refueling mission for Niagara Falls
U.S. Reps. Chris Collins, R-NY-27, and Brian Higgins, D-NY-26, today released the following comments after receiving news eight KC-135 refueling tankers will be arriving at Niagara Air Falls Reserve Station to replace the base's aging fleet of cargo planes. The news will be made official in President Barack Obama's budget, which will be released Tuesday.
"Being awarded these tankers is vital to ensuring the jobs and long-term success of this base," Collins said. "I want to thank my colleague, Congressman Higgins, and the local community who have been invaluable advocates for the base throughout this process. Today's news is a significant step towards modernizing the base's mission, ensuring the base's long-term success, and making Niagara Falls Air Station BRAC-proof."
"The KC-135 is a refueling tanker that would provide an enduring mission, protecting the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station from closure for years to come," Higgins said. "This is a great victory for the dedicated team at the Niagara Falls base and the Western New York economy."
Collins and Higgins have worked in a bipartisan fashion to spearhead efforts to return the KC-135 tanker mission to Western New York. The two congressmen have engaged community leaders, sent multiple letters to Pentagon officials (which can be read HERE and HERE), and held a recent press conference urging Obama to give the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station the KC-135 tanker mission.
The Air Force Reserve Wing at NFARS currently flies C-130 aircraft, which are aged and vulnerable to retirement. This could've left the Niagara Falls base vulnerable when the next Base Closure and Realignment Commission (BRAC) is established.
The refueling fleet is currently being upgraded and, as newer aircraft come online, the KC-135s are being sent to other bases. Niagara Falls has been chosen by the Air Force as one of the locations to serve in this mission.
Refueling capability is critical for power projection and sustaining operations. It allows combat aircraft to fly longer missions, and allows resupply aircraft and humanitarian relief to reach their destinations.
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.