By Martin Matishak - 08/06/14 11:15 AM EDT
New Hampshire Sens. Jeanne Shaheen (D) and Kelly Ayotte (R) on Wednesday hailed the Air Force’s decision to send a new KC-46A air refueling tanker to Pease Air National Guard Base in their home state.
Shaheen, who is facing a challenge from former Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) in November, said the decision would boost the state’s economy.
Her opponent, Brown, is an Army National Guardsman.
Ayotte said the tankers would bolster the military's readiness and would give the base an important role in the nation’s defense for years to come.
“For decades to come, the KC-46As at Pease will provide critical support and significant capabilities that are important to our men and women in uniform, bolstering our military readiness,” Ayotte said.
The KC-46A tanker, also called the Pegasus, will begin replacing the Air Force’s aging KC-135 tanker fleet in 2016. The program is set to wrap up in 2028.
Pease, home to the 157th Air Refueling Wing, is slated to receive up to 12 KC-46A aircraft beginning in fiscal 2018, according to Shaheen and Ayotte.
The Pentagon's fiscal 2015 budget request asked for $41.9 million in military construction for Pease to prep for KC-46A operations.
Earlier this year Shaheen, chairwoman of the Senate Armed Services subcommittee on readiness, authorized that amount in the Senate's version of the Defense authorization bill.
Lawmakers are due to take up that legislation when they return from their August recess.
"Tankers are the lifeblood of our joint force's ability to respond to crisis and contingencies,” Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh said in a statement.
The new tanker will “enable a rapid, global capability that will support U.S., joint, allied and coalition forces. The aircraft will also underpin our humanitarian missions," he added.