(Photo provided by Congressman Michael Guest's office)
Officials say the Meridian base is ready to receive the new aircraft replacing the KC-135, noting the size of the hangars and the substantial cost savings to the U.S. Air Force.
Mississippi’s Third District Congressman Michael Guest hosted a roundtable at the Mississippi National Guard’s 186th Air Refueling Wing at Key Field Air National Guard Base in Meridian, on Monday.
The roundtable featured an update and discussion on efforts to bring the KC-46 and a new refueling mission to the 186th Air Refueling Wing in Meridian. Federal officials are considering where the new KC-46s will be housed.
Local leaders from various facets of the broader Meridian and Lauderdale County community attended the event.
“Meridian pioneered air refueling. This is the birthplace of the air refueling, done right here at Key Field,” Congressman Guest said. “It is important that we keep our current mission here.”
Guest said while the airmen in Meridian have taken care of the platforms, some now approaching 60 years old, it’s time for them to be replaced with the next generation.
Officials say the Meridian base is ready to receive the new aircraft replacing the KC-135 Stratotanker, noting that it is also one of the few hangars in the entire Air National Guard that can hold two KC-135s or house the KC-46 with no significant modifications, which would be a substantial cost savings to the U.S. Air Force.
“We know that the Air Force is looking at rolling out 16 of these new platforms within the next several years,” Guest said. “Those platforms will be rolled out to two bases that currently house the KC-135s, and our intent today was to show community support for Meridian to make sure we are positioning Key Field so that those new tankers will ultimately call Meridian home.”
Congressman Guest told local community and military leaders that he along with the entire Mississippi federal delegation supports Meridian being the home to the KC-46s. Guest said the officials are advocating for Key Field in D.C., as are state leaders such as Governor Tate Reeves and state lawmakers from the Lauderdale County area who are providing state support.
Guest said it was important to host the event at Key Field this week to show officials at the Department of Defense and the Air Force the tremendous support Meridian’s base has not only in the local area but across the state.
It is expected that the criteria used to evaluate sites will be released soon. All 16 Air National Guard bases that currently fly the KC-135 will likely be part of the competition, with two locations ultimately selected.