By Mark Rosman
The U.S. Air Force has selected Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in south central New Jersey to host the next generation KC-46 refueling tankers, according to Congressman Chris Smith (R-NJ).
The Air Force’s decision was announced on Jan. 12. The Joint Base is the largest employer in the region, second only to the state of New Jersey as the largest employer in the Garden State, and contributes $6.9 billion annually to the regional economy, according to a press release from Smith.
With the designation of a Main Operating Base, the Joint Base is now slated to receive 24 new KC-46 Pegasus tankers to replace the current fleet of KC-10 Extenders.
“Securing this vitally important air refueling mission not only significantly enhances U.S. military power, but will ensure the sustainability of the Joint Base from any future closure,” said Smith, who represents a large portion of the installation.
“The service members at the Joint Base have truly earned this mission. The skilled human capital that makes the base run, the proven track record of success in ensuring our military has the strategic ability to operate around the world and the strong support of our local communities brings unparalleled capabilities to the Air Force and our national security.
“Today’s decision is a big win for the Joint Base and a monumental step that will help maintain and secure the base, and its economic impact for New Jersey, for decades to come. It is quite a day in the history of Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst and in New Jersey,” Smith said.
With this approval, the Joint Base is one of only two bases named to receive the next generation tankers this round. The Air Force announced that Travis Air Force Base in California will also receive 24 KC-46s, according to the press release.
Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst’s current 32 KC-10s are continually targeted for retirement and will now be replaced by the new KC-46s. The base also hosts eight KC-135 Stratotankers and 13 C-17 Globemaster III airlifters, and other planes and helicopters, according to the press release.
In a press release following the Air Force’s announcement, Gov. Chris Christie said, “This is a monumental decision for Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst and the people of New Jersey, including the tens of thousands of military families who dedicate their lives by serving at the base.
“I thank New Jersey’s bipartisan congressional delegation for their successful co-leadership in this effort and Air Force Secretary James for answering my call to make the proper decision to choose the Joint Base among a competitive field. Gaining the KC-46A aircraft means securing the Joint Base’s future for the next six decades.
“I am proud of and excited for the base and with this news look forward to seeing it continue to grow as a beacon of strength, hope and security for our state, region and nation,” Christie said.
The 305th Air Mobility Wing is the Joint Base’s main active duty U.S. Air Force component, specializing in global mobility and aerial refueling.