WASHINGTON, D. C. – U.S. Senators Thad Cochran and Roger Wicker, with Congressman Gregg Harper, today celebrated the U.S. Air Force decision to locate a new formal training unit at Key Field Air National Guard Base at Meridian.
The Mississippi lawmakers, as well as Governor Haley Barbour and Meridian Mayor Cheri M. Barry, were informed early Wednesday that Key Field had been selected as the Air Force’s “preferred alternative” to host a C-27J formal training unit (FTU) mission.
The decision will bring two additional C-27J aircraft to Meridian, increasing the planned total to six. An estimated 37 full-time employees and 85 trainees annually will be associated with the FTU, bringing the total personnel associated with the C-27J platform to 142 by 2015 when the mission is fully operational.
“I am convinced that the qualities represented in Key Field, the Mississippi Air National Guard and the people of Meridian were instrumental in leading the Defense Department to this decision. This new training mission is a solid indication that Key Field will be a long-term asset to the Air National Guard and the U.S Air Force as Mississippi continues to contribute to our nation’s security,” Cochran said.
“The Air Force’s decision to base this training mission at Key Field is another strong reminder of the importance of Meridian to our military,” said Wicker. “Mississippi’s long history of supporting our Armed Forces proudly continues through the MC-12 and C-27J operations.”
“Gaining the C-27J training mission is a tribute to the men and women of Key Field and their ability to adapt and succeed at any task or mission they are given,” said Harper. “Key Field was evaluated alongside several impressive bases during the Air Force’s site survey process, and I am confident that the base’s past successes and the friendly nature of the people of Meridian influenced the Department of Defense’s decision.”
“Gaining this additional mission has been a long-standing goal for the state,” Governor Barbour said. “Having the C-27J training mission at Key Field is important to Mississippi, as the state continues to play a crucial role in our national defense.”
“We are thrilled that the 186th Air Refueling Wing has been selected as the location for the Air National Guard’s C-27J Flying Training Unit. The city of Meridian is truly grateful for the diligent effort of Senator Cochran, Senator Wicker and Congressman Harper that went into this project,” Mayor Barry said.
In being named the preferred alternative site, Key Field edged out five other sites considered for the tactical transport aircraft training mission, which involves preparing pilots, loadmasters and maintenance crews for C-27J operations. The decision will be finalized pending an environmental impact analysis.
The decision to land the C-27J training mission at Key Field will build on the number of those aircraft located in Meridian. The training mission will add two C-27J aircraft at Key Field, where the Air Force had already decided to base four other C-27Js starting in early FY2012. The Air Force indicated that the two additional C-27J aircraft will be transferred in the third quarter of FY2014, with initial operational capability achieved in late 2014. The new FTU would be fully operational by the third quarter of FY2015.
The Air Force based its decision on criteria that considered airspace, facilities and infrastructure, as well as mission and training requirements.
The Key Field Air National Guard Station is currently home to the 186th Air Refueling Wing. In its 2005 BRAC Recommendations, the Department of Defense decided that by 2012, it would move the 186th Air Refueling Wing’s KC-135R aircraft to Wisconsin, Tennessee and Maine, leaving Key Field without a clear mission. This decision changes that, giving Meridian responsibility for a crucial mission well into the future.
The C-27J is a twin turbo-prop engine aircraft that provides short take-off and landing capabilities that are best suited for the transport of cargo among intra-theater locales.