With the potential for the Air Force Reserve unit based at Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station to lose its cargo mission in the coming years, the Niagara Military Affairs Council (NIMAC) and the western New York congressional delegation are urging the Air Force to consider returning KC-135 tankers to the facilit
The Reserve’s 914th Airlift Wing is home to eight C-130s but the Air Force is expected to retire the aging fleet of transport aircraft, reports the Buffalo News. The reserve station’s Air National Guard unit, the 107th Airlift Wing, flew KC-135 tankers until 2008 and the infrastructure remains in place to handle air refueling tankers. That unit is transitioning to unmanned aerial systems.
“We know that the C-130 cargo mission is something the Air Force is cutting back on, yet they have a need for air refueling,” said John Cooper, chairman of NIMAC.
Officials from the base support group recently traveled to Air Mobility Command at Scott AFB, Ill., and to an Airlift Tanker Association conference to promote Niagara as a location for the KC-135 mission, especially as some sites with KC-135 fleets transition to the service’s next generation tanker, the KC-46A.
“The KC-135 mission has a history in Niagara Falls and we want it to have a future here too,” said Rep. Brian Higgins (D). “It’s important to continue to look at ways the station here can evolve to meet the needs of today and tomorrow and strengthen its significance in the system.”
Higgins, and Reps. Chris Collins (R) and Louise Slaughter (D), on Thursday wrote to the head of Air Mobility Command to press for the tanker mission, while the state’s two senators sent a letter to the chief of the Air Force Reserve.
“Currently, NIFARS [Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station] has a hydrant refueling system and the critical infrastructure necessary to support large aircraft operations,” wrote Democratic Sens. Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand. “The hydrant refueling system at NFARS would require only a modest investment to become fully operational.”
Also last week, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) wrote Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James to pledge the state’s support to the campaign to attract the tanker refueling mission to Niagara. “New York State is prepared to take cost-saving measures in order to help craft a viable enduring mission for the base, and I hope to work with the USAF to make this a reality,” Cuomo stated, according to a press release.