A 914th Airlift Wing C-130 aircraft flies over Niagara Falls, N.Y.

A 914th Airlift Wing C-130 aircraft flies over Niagara Falls, N.Y. (Joseph McKee/U.S. Air Force)

(Tribune News Service) — Work will start later this month on a new entrance facility for the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station, but more projects for the base a few years down the line are in the works.

As part of delivering its annual report to Niagara County municipalities, the Niagara Military Affairs Council outlined some future projects for the Air Reserve Station it has advocated for.

The council advocates for any base additions or improvements to Washington lawmakers as military members are only allowed to inform command what is needed, not lawmakers. NIMAC members were in the nation's capital this past week speaking with Sen. Chuck Schumer and Rep. Brian Higgins' offices keeping them informed about what is needed at the base.

New improvements for the 10,000-foot runway are needed, as council Chairman John Cooper explained that the KC-135 refueling aircraft the 914th Air Refueling Wing based in Niagara Falls use need access at a point about 1,000 feet further down. It would add a bit of length to the runway and a taxiway so they can use the whole length.

"That allows them to take off with more fuel," Cooper said. "It's important that they be able to take off with the maximum amount of fuel on the aircraft.

Work is not expected to take place until either 2025 or 2026 with funding for the project is expected to be worked out, which Cooper estimates would be around $55 million. The runway would also be used by planes taking off from Niagara Falls International Airport.

There are currently eight KC-135 aircraft stationed at Niagara Falls, which are used to refuel other military aircraft while flying in the air. They are also over 60 years old, with the Air Force saying they can be used until they are 90 years old.

Cooper said they have also desired to bring the KC-46 Pegasus aircraft, a newer refueling plane model first delivered to the Air Force in 2019, to the base but it's the council's understanding that no more would be going to the Air Force reserves. If that is unsuccessful, NIMAC would advocate for new tanker plane models that are currently in the design process.

Other new facilities in the works include a combined ops alert facility for the 914th, which would be closer to the runway and aircraft which would be ready to go at a moment's notice, and a multi-agency secure facility for the 107th Attack Wing of the New York Air National Guard, which would also reportedly be used by local defense contractors and the University of Buffalo. That would also be a sensitive compartmented information facility, which would be used to process certain types of classified documents.

All funding for any improvements to the Air Reserve Station would come from the federal government, with projects having to get design funding first then funds for the projects once they are designed.

The combined ops alert facility would cost $32 million and the multi-agency facility planned to cost $60 million. Cooper said that design funding for the combined ops facility is included in this year's military budget while the multi-agency facility funding is still in the works.

"These can take years," Cooper said. "Once something gets in the budget for design, it's three to four years down the line. NIMAC works five years in advance all the time for everything."

(c)2022 the Niagara Gazette (Niagara Falls, N.Y.)

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