PORTSMOUTH - The Air National Guard Station at Pease is "very likely'' for a $40 million project to expand aerial refueling operations, an official said.
Andy Smith, environmental manager at Pease, said the Air National Guard Station (ANGS) is the top candidate - on a list of five bases - to receive a dozen new KC-46A aerial refueling planes in 2017 to replace the eight KC-135 refueling aircraft stationed at the facility.
"It's not 100 percent assured, but it's very likely," Smith said, adding the decision is scheduled to be released in June.
If chosen, Pease would have to undergo a two-year construction project - costing about $40 million - and the base would receive about 170 more personnel to help support the new aircraft.
While the construction project would call for the demolition or renovation of some buildings at Pease, it would also boost the local economy - perhaps by as much as $7 million.
Construction would begin in 2015 and the first new aircraft would arrive in 2017.
The proposal is part of a plan by the Air Force to replace a portion of the existing fleet of KC-135s with new aircraft and to determine which active-duty and Air National Guard (ANG) units would be best suited to accept the mission, according to the website www.angkc46aeis.com/.
Forbes ANGS in Kansas, Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey, Pittsburg ANGS in Pennsylvania and Rickenbacker ANGS in Ohio are also being considered for the ANG option, according to the website.
Smith said officials are conducting an "extensive study" of the cultural impact, 40 percent increase in flights, potential noise, effects of air quality, fuel capacity, existing safeguards and other factors.
An Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) - which requires public input - is being created and refined to help the National Guard Bureau (NGB) make the decision.
Copies of the draft EIS, which was released Friday, are available online at http://www.angkc46aeis.com/ or at the Langdon Public Library in Newington and the Portsmouth Public Library.
Public comments made during the hearing and received before March 24 will be taken into account as officials prepare the final EIS. There are several ways to submit comments about the proposal: mailing them to KC-46A EIS Project Manager, NGB/A7AM, Shepperd Hall, 3501 Fetchet Avenue, Joint Base Andrews, Md. 20762-5157, submit them via email to email@example.com or via the project's website.
Smith said Pease has received "a lot of support" from around the region.
On Thursday, about 30 area residents and officials attended a public hearing on the project.
City Manager John Bohenko said state Sen. Martha Fuller Clark and Gov. Maggie Hassan have spoken in favor of the plan.
In a letter sent Wednesday to Lt. Gen. Stanley Clark III, director of the Air National Guard, U.S. Sens. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., and Kelly Ayotte. R-N.H., highlighted the "strategic value" of Pease Air National Guard Base, stressed the importance of the 157th Air Refueling Wing (ARW) and supported the proposal to upgrade the refueling aircraft.
"As you know, Pease is located only minutes from the most important refueling tracks for U.S.-based aircraft heading to the Middle East, Europe and Africa and can support a range of training and operational mission," they wrote.