U.S. Senators Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand today announced that they have secured a commitment from the Chief of the U.S. Air Force (USAF) Reserve, Lieutenant General Jackson, to visit the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station (NFARS) in Western NY. Schumer and Gillibrand said that, as the USAF considers where it will place KC-135 tanker aircraft as the new KC-46A tankers come online, it would be mutually beneficial to both the USAF and NFARS if Jackson experienced the world-class facilities and top notch flight crews that makes this reserve station capable of taking on more missions. Schumer and Gillibrand have been on the front lines of the push to bring the KC-135s – which was previously flown out of NFARS – to the Western NY base, as it already has the existing infrastructure to support this aircraft. Schumer and Gillibrand therefore urged Jackson to see the base for himself before a decision was made, citing the base’s strategic location near five potential refueling routes and a large contingent of potential customers makes it a very strong and cost-effective choice for the USAF for basing tankers there again.
“NFARS plays a critical role in our national security and provides many good-paying jobs in Western New York. That is why I made it clear to Lieutenant General Jackson that he needs to see these world-class facilities and flight crews first-hand before making a decision regarding the new home for the KC-135 tankers. This will give him a chance to see, in person, the fact that NFARS is the perfect fit for this aircraft. The K-135 would enhance the NFARS mission for the next two decades into the future as the USAF tanker fleet is upgraded – and I will keep fighting tooth and nail until the NFARS base is selected and these tankers are brought back to their rightful home,” said Senator Schumer.
“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. “When Lieutenant General Jackson finally visits NFARS, he will see firsthand that this facility is not only a strategic base fully capable to house the KC-135 tankers but already serves as an invaluable asset to both the Air Force and Air National Guard.”
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 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 USAF 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, as well as fire, crash, rescue, and weather support. Therefore, Schumer and Gillibrand urged Lieutenant General James Jackson to visit NFARS to observe first-hand how well the base is supported by the local community as the USAF considers which bases across the country will serve as new homes for the KC-135.
Schumer and Gillibrand have long fought to bring the KC-135 tankers 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. In November, Schumer also met with General Everhart, Commander of the Air Mobility Command for the USAF, and personally urged him to consider NFARS as the next home for KC-135 tankers as they rebase aircraft around the country as a newer tanker fleet is deployed. 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 and Gillibrand 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.