BCT News Article on Efforts to Bring New AF Planes to Jt. Base'Jersey lawmakers seeking funding for KC-46 hangars'
By David Levinsky, BCT staff writer -
The first KC-46 air-refueling tankers aren't due to arrive at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst until 2020, but members of New Jersey's congressional delegation are already mobilizing to get the base ready.
U.S. Reps. Tom MacArthur, Chris Smith, Frank LoBiondo and Donald Norcross teamed on a letter sent to U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis on Wednesday seeking the inclusion of funding for construction of new hangars for the KC-46 tankers in the upcoming 2018 fiscal year budget.
Twenty-four of the jets are tentatively due to arrive at the base in three years, and preparing the base for them should be a top priority, the lawmakers said.
"The placement of the KC-46 tankers is critical for our national defense, for Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, and for the over 42,000 New Jersey residents who are employed at the base," MacArthur, R-3rd of Toms River, said in a separate statement. "Now, it is vital that new hangars for the KC-46 are funded as soon as possible so they are completed in time for the arrival of the tankers. Preparing for new KC-46 refueling tankers with new hangars will ensure no interruption in our vital air mobility mission and will help save lives."
It's not immediately clear how much the construction of new hangars would cost. The joint base and Travis Air Force Base in California were named in January as the preferred locations to house the tankers, in part because they both met the operation requirements and have much of the required infrastructure.
Obtaining the KC-46 jets was considered crucial to the base, as midair refueling is the largest mission performed there. Currently, 32 KC-10s and eight KC-135 tankers are housed at the base; the KC-46 is expected to eventually replace both.
Air Force leaders have not specified an exact timeline for replacing the 1950s-era KC-135 or the KC-10, which have been in service since the early 1980s. But they have said they would likely begin phasing out both fleets as the newer jets are built.
Smith, who is the dean of the New Jersey delegation, said that the joint base is a "natural fit" for the tankers and that providing funding for new hangars was likewise a sound investment.
"Ensuring timely funding for the hangars where the KC-46As will be based is not only good for the tens of thousands who are employed at the joint base — it is good for the safety and power projection of our nation," Smith, R-4th of Hamilton, said Wednesday.
President Donald Trump has already unveiled an outline for his budget for the 2018 fiscal year that includes $603 billion in defense spending, about $18 billion more than what the Obama administration planned.
More details on the request are due to be released later this month.
LoBiondo, R-2nd of Ventnor, and Norcross, D-1st of Camden, said the hangars should be a priority for the upcoming defense budget. Both serve on the House Armed Services Committee that oversees the Pentagon's spending and policies.
"The next generation of air refueling tankers at New Jersey's joint base provides certainty for future generations of New Jerseyans, and we are working together to ensure there are no preventable delays for the new fleet," Norcross said.
"Ensuring the readiness or our military assets at the joint base is critical for our national security. New hangars for the KC-46 fleet should be a priority for the upcoming Defense Department funding, and I appreciate the bipartisan effort of the New Jersey delegation in advocating for its inclusion," LoBiondo said.This article was originally published in the May 18 print edition of the Burliongton COunty Times and can be found at: