For several years, officials have been saying the future of Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst hinges on the KC-46 tanker, set to replace the older KC-135 and KC-10 tankers the base now houses.
This week, county and local officials, plus thousands of base employees received good news: Joint Base MDL was, indeed, chosen as one of two bases at which the KC-46 will kept.
“There are many, many good reasons to base these new planes at the Joint Base,” said Freeholder Jack Kelly, who serves as liaison to the base. “The base is already home to the older KC-135 and KC-10 tankers, which are both being phased out. The men and women here have the knowledge and experience to work with this new generation of aircraft.”
A total of 24 of the new Boeing KC-46 Pegasus planes will be split between Joint Base MDL and Travis Air Force Base in northern California.
“Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst and Travis AFB were chosen as the next two active-duty-led KC-46A bases because they meet all operational mission requirements at the best value for the Air Force and the American taxpayer and support our tanker recapitalization strategy,” said Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James, in a statement. “It is absolutely essential that we continue investing in the next generation of tanker aircraft so we have the aircraft necessary to maintain the nation’s global reach for years to come.”
The timeline as to when the new planes will arrive is dependent on the KC-46A delivery schedule, Air Force officials said, but is not anticipated to reach sufficient fleet size until 2019.
The Joint Base was one of five military bases being considered to house the KC-46A aircraft mission, county officials said. The county’s freeholder board made a concerted lobbying effort with neighboring Burlington County to keep the planes in New Jersey, citing the county’s efforts toward “minimizing encroachments, facilitating community partnerships and supporting the vital missions that are critical to our national defense and community welfare.”
“This is the nearest airbase to Europe and an ideal location for the deployment of forces overseas and the Middle East,” Freeholder Gerry P. Little said. “Our Joint Base has a long history and has played a vital role in maintaining our forces around the world.”
The Joint Base is the second largest employer in the state and contributes more than $6.9 billion to the local economy each year, officials said.
The Air Force, in its statement, said the KC-46A will provide improved capability, including boom and drogue refueling on the same sortie, worldwide navigation and communication, airlift capability on the entire main deck floor, receiver air refueling, improved force protection and survivability and multi-point air refueling capability.