John Bell: New refueling tankers will ring huge benefits to Eastern North Carolina

Goldsboro News-Argus
By Rep. John Bell
July 20, 2018

With a history in aviation that dates back to the Wright Brothers, it is an undisputed fact that North Carolina has been a pioneer in the field of aeronautical prototypes and industry firsts.

Thus, it comes as no surprise that a state, which is the grandfather of aeronautics, and known for being industry leaders in everything from tar to furniture, would again be chosen to host the U.S. Air Force’s new KC-46 refueling tanker.

As announced last year, the KC-46 will replace the existing refueling tankers assigned to the 916th Air Refueling Wing as the next generation refueling tanker at Goldsboro’s Seymour Johnson Air Force Base. As a native of Goldsboro and the representative of House District 10 in the N.C. General Assembly, this was an exciting moment for me, our community and the entire state. The KC-46 tanker program will strengthen our military footprint, create new jobs and bring more opportunities to our region.

The current fleet of KC-135 were introduced during the Eisenhower administration and their replacement has been a top priority and need for our military. Tankers are vitally important in protecting our aerial assets in the defense department and are the cornerstone of America’s aerial fleet. They have a storied history of success in our Air Force, such as providing the largest air refueling missions during Operation Desert Storm and Operation Desert Shield.

The production of the KC-46 will revolutionize and modernize the U.S. Air Force. By eliminating the vulnerability of an aging tanker fleet, it will also further improve military readiness, enhance our capabilities and help ensure America’s air superiority over our enemies.

For decades, Boeing has helped deliver superiority in the skies above. The KC-46 is essential as we continue to face growing international threats. As such, Boeing has equipped this aircraft with a wider ranging and advanced technological systems than its predecessor.

As the citizens of North Carolina are aware, our state has one of the largest military footprints in the country, representing three out of four military branches and home to six major DOD installations. Military and defense industries are collectively the second largest employers in the state – contributing $66 billion dollars annually to our economy.

Most importantly, our local communities have great relationships with our service members and the installations they serve on. Due to the synergy and partnerships developed between local and state governments, defense contractors and local businesses, our military families and local communities have benefited greatly as we have attracted more jobs, new economic opportunities and improved the overall quality of life.

The 2019 KC-46 tanker program is guaranteed to bring $11 million dollars and 200 jobs to the state through its suppliers and contractors. The tankers will call Seymour Johnson AFB home and provide direct benefit to the 916th Air Refueling Wing and America’s national security.

I am proud to have helped lead the fight to bring this next generation aircraft to North Carolina and urge all citizens in our great state to support the KC-46 refueling program.

John Richard Bell IV is a Republican member of the North Carolina General Assembly. He represents the 10th district.