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New air refueling tankers to bring jobs, prestige to Pease

Union Leader Correspondent

August 06. 2014 8:37PM
Pease Air National Guard Base in Newington is home to the 157th Air Refueling Wing, which could receive up to 12 KC-46A aircraft. (Photo illustration Courtesy, Boeing)

The Pease Air National Guard Base has been selected by the U.S. Air Force to receive up to 12 new KC-46A Pegasus air refueling tankers, which could bring along nearly $42 million in federal funding.

“The 157th Air Refueling Wing (based at Pease) has proven themselves more than ready for this mission,” said U.S. Rep. Carol Shea-Porter, D-NH, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, after Wednesday’s announcement. “I am very pleased that Pease was selected as the first main operating base and I look forward to welcoming the KC-46A to New Hampshire.”

U.S. Sens. Jeanne Shaheen, D-NH, and Kelly Ayotte, R-NH, have advocated for Pease to receive KC-46A tankers since 2011.

“Pease’s cost-effectiveness, strategic location, successful active-duty association, and superior infrastructure make it an irreplaceable national security asset,” Ayotte said in a statement. “With Pease set to receive the new KC-46A tanker, the base will be even more well-positioned to receive continued Air Force investment and avoid being targeted in the event there is ever another BRAC (Base Realignment and Closure) round.”

“The official selection of Pease to be the home of the KC-46As is a testament to the 157th Air Refueling Wing’s exceptional record of service,” Shaheen said. “Aerial refueling is a vital component of our military’s ability to operate around the world, and the new KC-46As at Pease will serve our national defense and local economy well for years to come.”

Nancy Carmer, Portsmouth’s economic development program manager, called the announcement “great news for New Hampshire and for Portsmouth.”

“From an economic perspective, it is anticipated that the 12 new tankers and the related construction activity required for receiving the tankers will generate 100-plus full-time jobs with a payroll of almost $7 million. The indirect benefit to local suppliers/vendors of the construction activity will greatly benefit the Seacoast region.”

The 157th Air Refueling Wing is to receive the aircraft starting in fiscal 2018.

According to Boeing’s website, the KC-46A is a multi-role tanker that’s based on a commercial 767 plane and “can refuel all U.S., allied and coalition military aircraft compatible with international aerial refueling procedures, any time, on any mission, and can carry passengers, cargo and patients whenever and wherever needed.”

Col. Paul Hutchinson, commander of the 157th Air Refueling Wing, thanked New Hampshire’s congressional delegation and Gov. Maggie Hassan for their support and efforts to secure the delivery of KC-46As.

Shaheen and Ayotte announced last year that the Air Force had selected Pease as the top Air National Guard base to receive the KC-46A tanker, pending an environmental impact study, according to a news release.

New Hampshire’s congressional delegation hosted Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James at Pease in May for a facility tour and meetings with members of the 157th Air Refueling Wing.

President Barack Obama’s fiscal year 2015 budget request calls for $41.9 million in military construction funds for Pease to prepare for KC-46A operations.

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