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Pease Air National Guard Base’s unique advantages make it a clear and cost-effective choice

(Washington, D.C.) — At a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing today, U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) jointly made the case for making the Pease Air National Guard base a home of the Air Force’s newest refueling tanker.

The Senators lauded the work done by the New Hampshire Air National Guard’s 157th Air Refueling Wing and pressed the United States Air Force to conduct a transparent and objective process as it decides where to place the new KC-46A air refueling tanker. The Senators, both members of the committee, highlighted how Pease Air National Guard Base’s unique characteristics make it a clear choice to base the new tanker, which will replace the KC-135 tankers that the Guard currently flies out of Pease.  The committee’s witnesses included General William Fraser, who is responsible for the air refueling missions for which the 157th provides critical support.

“The men and women of the 157th have successfully provided continuous support for refueling missions critical to homeland defense and overseas missions since the attacks of 9/11, and at a fraction of the price of our active duty units,” Shaheen said. “Under any objective basing criteria, Pease is a clear and cost-effective choice to house the new tankers because of its strategic location near air refueling flight paths, experience with current tanker task force missions and unique cost-effective integration of guard members and active duty Air Force personnel.”

“If the Air Force conducts an objective and transparent basing process for the new tanker, I am confident that Pease Air National Guard Base and the 157th Air Refueling Wing will receive the new KC-46A tanker,” said Senator Ayotte, who joined the 157th on a refueling mission last week.   “Pease sits just minutes from the most important operational refueling tracks on the East Coast for aircraft heading to the Middle East and Europe, performs its mission at significant cost savings relative to active duty refueling units, and boasts a mature active duty association that helped the 157th attain the highest aircraft utilization rate in the entire Air National Guard last year.  I will continue to use my position on the Armed Services Committee to highlight the capabilities and accomplishments of the 157th Air Refueling Wing and Pease Air National Guard Base.”

Last year, the Air Force and Defense Department announced a contract to build the next generation of aerial refueling tankers, 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 will determine where the new tankers are located, this spring.  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.  Apart from the base’s proximity to refueling tracks and the unit’s unique partnership with the active duty component, Pease has one of the highest aircraft utilization rates in the Air National Guard, ensuring that these critical new assets would be put to use to an extent few other bases could match.