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Senators: 8 KC-135 Tankers Will Help Protect Jobs at NFARS & Enhance Our Nation's Security 

With News That Old C-130 Tankers Will Be Replaced By KC-135s, Senators Announce Nearly $25 Million In Additional Investment For NFARS

Schumer, Gillibrand: New Jobs, Additional Fed Investment & Increased Flying Hours Will Make NFARS Ever-More Valuable and Viable 

U.S. Senators Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand today announced that the U.S. Air Force’s (USAF) decision to transfer eight KC-135 tankers from the current fleet to the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station (NFARS) in Western New York will mean more good news for the base. Specifically, this transfer will result in the removal of the current C-130H aircraft from the base. As a result, the USAF has budgeted $25.532 million in 2017 for NFARS’ conversion to the KC-135 aircraft. This is comprised of $16.3 million for the overhaul of fuel hydrants, fuel cell, maintenance back shop and simulator alterations required by the conversion from C-130H tactical airlift aircraft to KC-135 air refueling aircraft. In addition, $6.629 million will be used to increase flying hours to support the new KC-135 mission, and $2.603 million will be allocated for 27 new, full-time employees on the base in the year 2017.

“The newly-transferred KC 135’s headed to NFARS will bring $25 million in federal investment and a cargo-load of jobs. It is a huge shot in the arm for Western New York that will make NFARS ever more valuable to our nation’s defense. Not only will this $25 million from the Air Force allow NFARS to complete the seamless transition to housing the KC-135s once again at their rightful home, but it will also bring more local jobs and increased flight hours to the region,” said Senator Schumer. “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 existing, good paying jobs for the residents of Western New York. Having these tankers in Western New York will help keep people at work and enhance the NFARS mission for decades to come.”

“Replacing the old C-130H’s with the KC 135’s increases the capabilities and brings additional federal resources to the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station,” said Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. “This station remains a strategic base that already serves as an invaluable asset to both the Air Force and Air National Guard. 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 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.”

Earlier this month, Schumer and Gillibrand announced the USAF would be transferring eight KC-135 tankers from the current fleet to Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station (NFARS) in Western New York, after they successfully urged the USAF’s top brass to prioritize bringing the KC-135s back to NFARS. Schumer and Gillibrand long pushed for this, 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.

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 will 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 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. 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 mission. In December 2015, Schumer and Gillibrand announced that they secured a commitment from the Lieutenant General Jackson to visit NFARS in person.

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.