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Air Force will start deciding this year where to base KC-46A

(Washington, D.C.) — U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) met with leadership of the New Hampshire Air National Guard in Washington today to discuss how to best coordinate their efforts to convince the Air Force to base its newest refueling tanker at the Pease Air National Guard Base.

The Senators, both members of the Senate Armed Services Committee, discussed with Guard leaders how they could best emphasize Pease Air National Guard Base’s unique advantages as a base for the new KC-46A tanker, which will replace the KC-135 tankers that the Guard currently flies out of Pease.  In meetings with Air Force and Pentagon officials, the Senators have repeatedly praised the New Hampshire Air National Guard’s 157th Air Refueling Wing and requested that the Air Force conduct a transparent and objective process to decide where to base the new tankers.

“It is important for all of us to work together in communicating the clear advantages Pease has a cost-effective home for the new tankers,” Shaheen said. “It was great to meet personally with Senator Ayotte and Guard leaders to discuss our plans, and to thank The New Hampshire Air National Guard’s 157th Air Refueling Wing for the great work it does and will continue to do for our country and our national security.”

“Based on the merits, Pease and the 157th are well-positioned to compete for the new refueling tanker,” Ayotte said. “Senator Shaheen and I have pushed for objective and transparent basing criteria, and today’s briefing will help us keep making a strong case for Pease.”

Last year, the Air Force and Defense Department announced a contract to build the next generation of aerial refueling tankers, the KC-46A, which allow other planes to refuel in mid-air.  Several bases across the country are being considered as potential locations for the new planes. The Air Force plans to release the basing criteria, which is the first step in determining where the new tankers are located, in the next several weeks. The Air Force has said it plans to identify candidate installations this summer and will identify preferred and reasonable alternatives by the end of the 2012.  Final basing decisions for the first round of KC-46A tankers are not expected before December 2013. 

In addition to advocating for Pease at numerous hearings, Shaheen and Ayotte also sent a letter to top Air Force officials calling for a comprehensive and open process.  The Senators emphasized the factors that make Pease a leading choice to station the new planes—the base has one of the longest runways, operates with a cost-effective hybrid of Air National Guard and active duty Air Force personnel and is well placed along the operational flight path to Europe, Africa and the Middle East.