Senators’ Success Culminates A Long Push To Bring Aircraft Back To NFARS; KC-135 Tankers Will Help Protect Jobs at NFARS & Play a Strategic Role in Our Nation's Security 

Schumer, Gillibrand: Eagles Have Landed for Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station!

U.S. Senators Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten E. Gillibrand today announced the U.S. Air Force (USAF) will transfer eight KC-135 tankers from the current fleet to Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station (NFARS) in Western New York. Schumer and Gillibrand have pushed for NFARS, by citing the existing infrastructure and local workforce that makes the base a perfect fit for supporting additional transport and refueling aircraft missions.  In addition to being a cost-effective option, Schumer and Gillibrand said that NFARS’ strategic location near five Canadian border crossings, five potential refueling routes, and a large contingent of potential customers made the base a strong choice to better serve the USAF.

“The eagles have landed for Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station in the form of 8 KC-135s that will soon be transferred here, further bolstering the varied and vital defense work happening at NFARS. Not only will these tankers help keep people at work, they will enhance the NFARS mission for the next two decades. I was proud to push to bring the KC-135 fleet to NFARS, which will not only fulfill a strategic role in our nation’s security but also protect thousands of good paying jobs to the residents of Western New York. After countless phone calls and meetings with some of the Airforce’s top brass, I am proud to say KC-135s are coming back to NFARS,” said Senator Schumer.

“The Air Force made the right decision to bring KC-135 tankers back to the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station,” said Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. “I fought to ensure that these tankers are returned to where they belong in Western New York, wrote letters, held meetings and made calls to urge top Air Force officials to prioritize NFARS for this mission. NFARS is the perfect location for the KC-135s. It is an important economic engine that supports local jobs and plays a vital role in our national defense, and I am pleased to see the Air Force heeded our call to house the KC-135 fleet at this base.”

NFARS is a joint location, hosting both the USAF Reserve and National Guard. The base’s current reserve fleet includes the C-130H aircraft, which have been flown extensively over a number of years, and the National Guard flies 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. Therefore, Schumer and Gillibrand determined NFARS would be the most logical home for 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 to house the 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, employing 2,600 people, 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.

 Schumer and Gillibrand have long fought to bring the KC-135 tanker fleet back to NFARS. In July 2015, Schumer met with General McDew, the commander of the U.S. Transportation Command (TRANSCOM) for the Air Force and successfully urged the General 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 played 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, which is now reality.

In January of this year, Schumer and Gillibrand called the Secretary of the Airforce Deborah Lee James and urged Secretary James and the USAF to consider NFARS as a as a home for the KC-135. Both Schumer and Gillibrand presented a clear case to why NFARS was the most logical base for the KC-135. Schumer and Gillibrand cited the Defense Logistics Agency’s report that such a transition was 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.

In December 2015, Schumer and Gillibrand announced that they secured a commitment from the Lieutenant General Jackson to visit NFARS in person. In November 2015, Schumer personally met with General Everhart, Commander of the Air Mobility Command for the U.S. Air Force (USAF), and urged him to prioritize the NFARS in Western New York as they are considering bases for new missions. In October 2015, Schumer and Gillibrand 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.


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