First KC-46 tanker arrives at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst

Burlington County Commissioner Deputy Director Dan O’Connell was at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst on Nov. 9 for the arrival of the first KC-46A Pegasus to be stationed at the installation.PHOTO COURTESY OF BURLINGTON COUNTY
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Burlington County Commissioner Deputy Director Dan O’Connell was at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst on Nov. 9 for the arrival of the first KC-46A Pegasus to be stationed at the installation.PHOTO COURTESY OF BURLINGTON COUNTY

The first KC-46A Pegasus touched down at its new home on Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst on Nov. 9.

“This is an historic moment both for our military base and our entire county,” Burlington County Commissioner Director Felicia Hopson said in a prepared statement. “For more than 100 years, the Joint Base has been an integral part of our county and the arrival of the KC-46s will help ensure it will remain a vital and strong for the next century.”

The Boeing-built KC-46 is the U.S. Air Force’s latest and most-advanced midair refueling and transport jet and is expected to become the workhorse of the U.S. air mobility force, which is responsible for fueling U.S. and its allies’ aircraft in flight across the globe, according to the statement.

About 45 KC-46s are currently operating out of McConnell Air Force Base in Kansas, Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in South Carolina, Pease Air National Guard Base in New Hampshire and Altus Air Force Base in Oklahoma.

The Joint Base is eventually expected to become the home of 24 of the planes, according to the statement.

“A new era officially begins today,” Commissioner Deputy Director Dan O’Connell, who represented the county at the Joint Base’s official arrival ceremony for the first new plane, said in the statement. “These state-of-the-art supertankers will help safeguard our nation, and they will do it based here at our county’s amazing mega-base. It’s a monumental day and I want to thank all those who played a part in bringing these jets to Burlington County, especially our two congressmen, Andy Kim and Donald Norcross.”

Both Kim and Norcross advocated for the timely arrival of the new planes to the base and for on-base improvements in preparation to the jets’ arrival, according to the statement. Norcross was also in office in 2017 when the Air Force selected the Joint Base as one of the first installations where the KC-46A Pegasus would be based.

In addition to the jets themselves, the military has funded construction of a 90,000-square-foot hangar on the base, an aerospace ground equipment storage, a KC-46A Fuselage Trainer, and other additions and renovations on existing buildings and facilities, according to the statement.

The Joint Base is the nation’s first and only tri-service installation and is New Jersey’s second-largest employer, and Burlington County’s largest, with more than 42,000 military and civilian employees on site. The installation contributes close to $7 billion to the state’s economy, according to the statement.

The KC-46s were designed as an upgrade to the KC-10 and KC-135 tankers that currently handle the bulk of the U.S. air refueling missions. The plane is known for its advanced refueling capabilities, including the ability to refuel two aircraft simultaneously and its capacity to get refueled in flight itself, according to the statement.

The Air Force selected the Joint Base to receive 24 of the KC-46s in 2017, beating out some 30-plus installations that had vied for the aircraft and with them the flight crews and support personnel to operate and maintain the state-of-the-art jets, according to the statement.

Commissioner Tom Pullion, who is the board’s liaison to the Joint Base, said the selection of Joint Base for such an important mission bodes well for the installation’s future.

“Burlington County’s leaders and residents know how important the mega-base is to our nation’s defense and to our state and regional economy,” Pullion said in the statement. “We want to the see the base stay active and essential for many generations to come, so we will continue to do all we can to support the 40,000-plus men and women who work on the installation and their many missions.”