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Mississippi Congressional delegation urges Air Force to select Meridian’s Key Field for KC-46 home

By: Frank Corder - April 12, 2024

A Boeing KC-46A Pegasus takes off at Yokota Air Base, Japan, Oct. 25, 2018, during a system evaluation. This is the first time the KC-46A visited Japan. The flight is to support an initial evaluation by the USAF of the KC-46A's integrated mission system suite as well as its ability to conduct worldwide navigation, communication and operation. (U.S. Air Force photo by Yasuo Osakabe)

  • Senators Wicker and Hyde-Smith along with Congressmen Kelly, Thompson, Guest and Ezell say Key Field’s existing infrastructure is well-equipped to accommodate the refueling and transport plane.

Mississippi’s full Congressional delegation is actively advocating for Key Field in Meridian to be the future home of the new KC-46 aircraft, a military refueling and strategic transport plane.

In a letter to Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall dated April 9th, both U.S. Senators Roger Wicker (R) and Cindy Hyde-Smith (R) along with Congressmen Trent Kelly (R-MS 1), Bennie Thompson (D-MS 2), Michael Guest (R-MS 3) and Mike Ezell (R-MS 4) outline why Key Field in Meridian should be selected.

“Key Field’s existing infrastructure, including runways and maintenance facilities, is well-equipped to accommodate the KC-46, reducing the need for significant additional investment during these times of constrained resources,” the delegation states. “Additionally, Meridian’s favorable weather conditions and access to ample airspace make it an optimal environment for conducting large-scale exercises and mission-focused training encompassing multiple operational plans to demonstrate and rehearse for complex, large-scale military operations—a main requirement to generate readiness which addresses the current force and the Department of the Air Force’s ability to stay competitive.  Selecting Meridian as the location for the new KC-46 would enhance the Air Force’s operational capabilities.”

Key Field is already home to KC-135 planes, which are air refueling tankers that provide rapid global mobility and combat support to the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD). The 186th Air Refueling Wing, which hosts over 1,200 officers and airmen, operates these planes out of Meridian.

The delegation says the Air Force’s selection would cement and extend Key Field’s role in America’s national security infrastructure for decades to come.

(Photo from Key Field NCO Association on Facebook)

“Meridian is a prime strategic location that fulfills the essential criteria for hosting this military asset.  The region’s proximity to international waters and its strategic location relative to military operations make it an excellent base for conducting refueling operations,” the delegation write. “The local workforce in Meridian has a strong tradition of supporting military operations, and the community has a long-standing history of providing exceptional support to the armed forces.”

Congressman Michael Guest hosted a roundtable at the Mississippi National Guard’s 186th Air Refueling Wing at Key Field back in September 2023. 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 at the time. “It is important that we keep our current mission here.”

READ MORE: Congressman Guest, Meridian leaders advocate for Key Field to house KC-46

Guest noted then that Governor Tate Reeves and local legislators from the Lauderdale County area were actively providing state support.

It remains unclear as to when the Air Force will make its final decision in the matter.

About the Author(s)
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Frank Corder

Frank Corder is a native of Pascagoula. For nearly two decades, he has reported and offered analysis on government, public policy, business and matters of faith. Frank’s interviews, articles, and columns have been shared throughout Mississippi as well as in national publications. He is a frequent guest on radio and television, providing insight and commentary on the inner workings of the Magnolia State. Frank has served his community in both elected and appointed public office, hosted his own local radio and television programs, and managed private businesses all while being an engaged husband and father. Email Frank: