Seacoast Online: N.H. congressional leaders push bid to bring KC-46A tanker to Pease
PORTSMOUTH — New Hampshire's congressional delegation is ramping up support for Pease Air National Guard Base and the 157th Air Refueling Wing to receive the KC-46A tanker.
U.S. Sens. Jeanne Shaheen, a Democrat, and Kelly Ayotte, a Republican, are joining forces with U.S. Reps. Carol Shea-Porter and Annie Kuster, both Democrats, in expressing their continued support for the next generation of air refueling tankers to be based at Pease. Both Shaheen and Ayotte serve on the Senate Armed Services Committee, while Shea-Porter serves on the House Armed Services Committee.
In January, the U.S. Air Force announced Pease was one of five Air National Guard finalists to receive the KC-46A, an aircraft meant to replace the Eisenhower-era KC-135 tankers. Air Force officials visited Pease in February to begin assessing its competitiveness to receive the new tanker.
The congressional delegation as a whole recently sent a letter to recently appointed director of the Air National Guard, Lt. General Stanley E. Clarke III. “We believe Pease's strategic location, low operating costs, high aircraft utilization rates, as well as its mature active duty association, make it the ideal, cost-effective Air National Guard solution for the KC-46A,” the letter stated.
The Air Force is conducting detailed site surveys of each candidate base to assess each location against operational and training requirements, potential impacts to existing missions, housing, infrastructure and manpower. The Air Force is expected to select a preferred and reasonable alternative locations and begin an Environmental Impact Analysis Process this spring. The selected base will receive aircraft beginning in fiscal year 2018.
According to Boeing, the company contracted to deliver 179 KC-46A aircraft to the Air Force, the new tanker will revolutionize the Air Force's air mobility mission. The Air Force is not expected to begin buying the new aircraft until 2017. If selected, Pease could get 12 of the new tankers at the local Guard base.