Mississippi’s Congressional Delegation Urges Air Force to Select Key Field as the Future Home for the New KC-46 Aircraft

April 12, 2024

WASHINGTON – Mississippi’s Congressional Delegation is urging Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall to consider Key Field in Meridian as the future home of the new KC-46 aircraft, a military refueling and strategic transport plane.


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


U.S. Senators Roger Wicker, R-Miss., and Cindy Hyde-Smith, R-Miss., and U.S. Representatives Bennie Thompson, D-Miss, Trent Kelly, R-Miss., Michael Guest, R-Miss., and Mike Ezell, R-Miss., outline in the letter why Key Field in Meridian should be selected, which can be found in the text below or here.


Dear Secretary Kendall: 


We are in receipt of the Congressional Notification for the final Air National Guard (ANG) KC-46, MOB 7 Basing Criteria.  The Mississippi Congressional Delegation understands the Department of the Air Force’s need for change in order to remain competitive in an era of Great Power Competition (GPC).  Key Field in Meridian, Mississippi, is a prime location for the KC-46, and the 186th Air Refueling Wing stands ready to support the advancement of your efforts to reoptimize for GPC. 


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 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.


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.  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.


In conclusion, Meridian, Mississippi, is the ideal location for hosting the new KC-46, offering strategic advantages, operational capabilities, and enduring community support. Our Congressional Delegation requests that you give full consideration to Meridian's proposal in the selection process for this critical military asset.


Thank you for your attention to this matter.  We look forward to your response on how we can support your efforts and are available to provide any additional information or insights to support the case for Meridian, Mississippi.