Press Release

Schumer, Gillibrand Call on USAF to Choose Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station As a Main Operating Base to Bring the KC-135 Fleet to WNY- Schumer, Gillibrand Say Existing a Perfect Fit for Supporting Additional Transport Aircraft & Missions

Oct 30, 2015

NFARS Previously Flew KC-135 And Has Existing Infrastructure That Would Enable Base To Once Again Be The Home To This Air Force Tanker Which Has Proven Its Enduring Value Over Time – Schumer & Gillibrand Say USAF Should Select NFARS As Site Of KC-135 Fleet Again, Citing Base’s Strategic Location And Critical Role In Protecting National Security


Schumer, Gillibrand: The KC-135 Fleet Belongs in Niagara Falls


U.S. Senators Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand today urged Lieutenant General James Jackson, Chief of the U.S. Air Force (USAF) Reserve, to consider the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station (NFARS) as the next home for KC-135 tankers. Schumer and Gillibrand explained that, until 2008, the KC-135 was flown out of NFARS and still has most of the infrastructure that would allow it to take on this mission again as the Air Force deploys the new KC-46A tanker and needs new locations to house some of the KC-135s that are being relocated. In addition to being a cost-effective option, Schumer said that NFARS’ strategic location near five border crossings (with Canada), five potential refueling routes, and a large contingent of potential customers makes it a very strong choice to better serve the USAF. Schumer and Gillibrand believe that the base’s facilities make NFARS – and the Buffalo to visit NFARS in the near future.

“The NFARS base plays a critical role in our national security and provides many good-paying jobs in Western New York. Its strategic location and extensive infrastructure would make it the perfect home to house KC-135 tankers again. This aircraft was previously housed at NFARS and should be brought back to its rightful home, which already has the infrastructure in place to support it,” said Senator Schumer. “The base is in a key strategic location that is home to a first-class, highly educated workforce. The K-135 would enhance the NFARS mission for the next two decades into the future as the USAF tanker fleet is upgraded.”

“The Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station has the capabilities and resources to continue to play a vital role to our national defense,” said Senator Gillibrand, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. “NFARS would be strategic and cost effective choice for KC-135s if and when the Air Force decides to relocate them. Bringing this mission back to Western New York would benefit the local economy and the Air Force.”

NFARS is a joint location, hosting both the USAF Reserve and National Guard. The base’s current fleet only includes the C-130H aircraft, which have been flown extensively over a number of years, and the MQ-9 Reaper Remotely Piloted Aircraft. Technological upgrades have paved the way for a newer model of tankers, the KC-46A, to become prominently featured in the fleets at other bases. Schumer and Gillibrand said NFARS would be more than capable of flying the KC-135, which it has already flown in the past, as the Air Force looks to deploy the KC-46A and redeploy the existing KC-135 fleet. Schumer and Gillibrand explained that NFARS features infrastructure associated with housing tankers, including a $26 million dollar aircraft refueling system. This would make the transition of these aircraft to NFARS easy and financially beneficial to the USAF.  

Schumer and Gillibrand said that the base’s location would allow these tankers to refuel other military aircraft flying out of any base in the Northeastern United States. This would increase the operational capability of NFARS, allowing for a greater number and wider variety of missions to be flown out of the region. Schumer and Gillibrand explained that NFARS is also the largest employer in Niagara County, with a total economic impact of more than $143 million annually, and adding aircraft to the base’s arsenal would only help to increase its local economic contribution. The base functions as a joint military and civilian use international airport with the military providing snow removal, maintenance support, fire crash and rescue and weather support. Placing additional aircraft at NFARS would dramatically increase the amount of jobs and opportunities for tourism in the Buffalo-Niagara area.


Therefore, in a letter to Lieutenant General James Jackson, Schumer and Gillibrand urged the USAF to consider NFARS as a as a home for the KC-135, as the Defense Logistics Agency has reported that such a transition is possible, and that construction to alter NFARS’s existing tanker infrastructure would cause the USAF to incur far less costs than the building of another station. Additionally, they urge Lieutenant General James Jackson to visit NFARS in the near future.


Schumer and Gillibrand have long fought to bring the KC-135 tanker fleet back to NFARS. In July, Schumer met with General McDew, the commander of the U.S. Transportation Command (TRANSCOM) for the Air Force and urged him to support updating the base’s aircraft transport fleet as well as bring the KC-135 back to NFARS. As the commander of TRANSCOM, General McDew will play a leading role in the final decision over which “mission” – or aircraft unit – would be phased in by TRANSCOM. Schumer said that because many bases around the country have already upgraded most of their aircraft, NFARS should be next on the list for updates to its C-130 fleet and the return of the KC-135 fleet.


A copy of the Senators’ letter to the USAF appears below:

Dear Lieutenant General Jackson,


We write to urge your consideration of the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station (NFARS) to host the main operating base 3 (MOB 3) of the KC-46A Pegasus tanker. We are hopeful that as the Air Force works to determine placement of the KC-46A and the subsequent relocation of the KC-135 fleet, we can work together to provide NFARS with new missions. In this light, also invite you to visit NFARS in the near future. We believe that once you see the advantages and capability of its location and facilities, you will recognize that it has the infrastructure and personnel to effectively host the KC-135 tanker mission.


As you know, NFARS hosts both the Air Force Reserve and the Air National Guard: a one-team effort to provide for our nation’s defense. Additionally, it is a joint military- and civilian-use international airport. NFARS is in a strategic position on the Canadian border between Lake Erie and Lake Ontario, in an area with five border crossings, and is centrally located with a large potential customer base in its geographical area.  Further, there are three air refueling routes overhead and two additional routes in close proximity.


Prior to 2005, NFARS flew KC-135 tankers. At that time, considerable upgrades were made to the base. In order to protect that investment, as well as make better use of this capable installation, we urge you to consider NFARS as a location for the KC-135 mission. Currently, NFARS has a hydrant refueling system and the critical infrastructure necessary to support large aircraft operations. This system could also enable the use of NFARS during contingencies or emergences at the Niagara Falls International Airport. The hydrant refueling system at NFARS would require only a modest investment to become fully operational.


In addition to the hydrant refueling system, much of the KC-135 infrastructure at NFARS is still intact or could be reasonably restored with comparatively low modification costs. In light of the unique assets and mission capability that NFARS offers, we strongly urge you to visit this important Air Reserve Station in the near future. We hope that we can work together with the Air Force Reserve to provide NFARS with missions that make the best use of its past investments and current capability.


Please do not hesitate to reach out to us or our staffs if you have questions or need additional information.




Charles E. Schumer

United States Senator


Kirsten Gillibrand

United States Senator