New aircraft coming to NJ military base means jobs are saved, officials say
Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst is one of the longest running military installations in the country, which also means having some of the oldest equipment on base. But the runways at the base will have some new traffic soon.
The Air Force on Thursday announced the base will be the home of the KC-46 Pegasus tankers. The 24 new planes will replace the aging KC-10 Extender planes which have played a key role in keeping aircraft of all sizes going around the world.
Officials said the decision will save many jobs in the region.
"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 closures," said U.S. Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J. 4th District.
Smith's district includes a large amount of the base and its employees, who he said will continue to have jobs at the base thanks to the new aircraft.
The base, which straddles Burlington and Ocean counties, is also the largest employer in the region and contributes $6.9 billion to the regional economy on an annual basis.
Smith called it "quite a day in the history of Joint Base McGuire.
"Today's decision is a big win for Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst and a monumental step that will help maintain and secure the base — and its economic impact for New Jersey — for decades to come."
While the New Jersey base will be the home for the tankers on the east coast, Travis Air Force Base in California will also receive 24 to keep on the west coast. Unlike other military installations, McGuire is the only tri-service base that also includes active duty, reserve and National Guard units.
State Sen. Diane Allen whose district includes part of the base also lauded the decision. Allen had introduced a resolution which passed in the legislature urging the Air Force to bring the planes to New Jersey. "Joint Base MDL provides our state with thousands of great jobs," she said. "This new mission will ensure the base remains a viable military installation for decades to come.
Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, who on Thursday announced she will run for governor and who serves as chairwoman of the New Jersey Military Installation Growth and Development Task Force, lauded the decision by the Air Force to bring the new planes to New Jersey.
"It is a great day for New Jersey and the Joint Base," she said. "When the KC-46A mission is finalized it will potentially provide mission stability to the Joint Base and provide financial and job security to the surrounding communities that depend on the Base."
Large aircraft at the base are nothing new, as in addition to the retiring KC-10s, they are also the home to KC-135 Stratotankers, and C-17 Globemaster III airlifters.
Because of this history of large aircrafts Allen said the new planes should fit right in. "The base is going to be an outstanding home for these new jets since it already has the infrastructure and facilities needed thanks to its existing contingent of older tanker aircraft.
Contact reporter Adam Hochron at 609-359-5326 or Adam.Hochron@townsquaremedia.com