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May 22. 2013 9:38PM

Pease chosen to receive refueling tanker


Based on Boeing's 767 airliner, the KC-46A is intended to replace the United States Air Force's aging fleet of KC-135 Stratotankers. (COURTESY)

PORTSMOUTH — Pease Air National Guard Base has been selected as the top Air National Guard base to receive the new KC-46A tanker, U.S. Sens. Jeanne Shaheen, D-NH, and Kelly Ayotte, R-NH, announced Wednesday.

Pending results of an environmental impact study, Pease, home to the 157th Air Refueling Wing, will be the first Air National Guard unit to receive the next-generation tanker.

Col. Paul Hutchinson, commander of the 157th Air Refueling Wing, said when the final decision is made in the spring of 2014, officials expect to add an additional 100 or more full-time jobs at Pease. That represents about $7 million in additional direct payroll into the Seacoast economy, and about $45 million in military construction contracts over the next several years, he said.

The KC-46As will replace the Eisenhower KC-135s that have been operated and maintained out of Pease since 1975.

In January, the Air Force announced that Pease was one of five Air National Guard finalists for the KC-46A. Air Force officials visited Pease in February to assess its competitiveness.

"This is great news for Pease and the dedicated members of the 157th Air Refueling Wing," Shaheen and Ayotte said in a joint statement. "We're thrilled that the Air Force recognizes Pease's many strategic advantages as well as the 157th's exceptional record of service. We're confident that Pease will continue to provide the best air refueling support in the Air Force for decades to come."

Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter, D-NH, also welcomed the news Wednesday.

"This is extraordinary news and a very proud day for the remarkable men and women at Pease," Shea-Porter said. "This decision is a testament to the hard work and dedication of the 157th Air Refueling Wing. I am confident they will carry out these missions with the utmost professionalism, leaving no doubt that they were the right choice for this distinct honor."

Maj. General William Reddel, adjutant general of the New Hampshire National Guard, said the KC-46 represents an improvement in all respects over the current KC-135 tanker, which has been the "cornerstone of global reach and global power."

"Quieter, more fuel efficient, and adaptable to multiple missions, it will provide the best value to our taxpayers," Reddel said. "Basing the KC-46 at Pease Air National Guard Base will leverage the advantages and skill sets of the Air National Guard and U.S. Air Force to defend our nation anywhere in the world."

Some of the criteria cited in Wednesday's Air Force announcement included Pease's successful existing active-duty association, low active-duty manpower requirements, and strategic location in a region of high air refueling receiver demand.

The Air Force will now begin an environmental impact analysis of the base, and, pending a successful outcome, Pease is slated to receive 12 of the new aircraft beginning in fiscal year 2018.

gmacalaster@newstote.com


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