Niagara Gazette

December 19, 2012

Drones set for Falls base

Staff reports
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — Drones will soon be part of the mission at the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station.

NIMAC officials say the fiscal 2013 Defense Authorization Bill was finalized Tuesday and under the bill, the 107th will eventually fly remotely piloted aircrafts, known as drones.

"We're particularly happy the men and women of the 107th will hopefully have a mission to carry on ... and we'll keep the jobs in Western New York," said Merrell Lane, Niagara Military Affairs Council chairman said Wednesday night.

It hasn't been announced specifically which drones would be based in the Falls, but it's rumored one of the two would be the MQ-9 Reaper.

The news could lead to hundreds of more jobs at the air base.

The drones are mainly used for surveillance missions and can carry missiles. The drones  themselves would not actually land at the airbase, but would be piloted remotely in Niagara Falls.

In November, state Senator George Maziarz said, “This is a very important additional mission, because drones are a mission that is growing within the military. And it's a new technology mission. So this is a very positive thing for the base, and for Western New York.”

The 107th could also continue flying their all or some of their four C-130 cargo planes.

Western New York Representatives Brian Higgins, Kathy Hochul, and Louise Slaughter sent a letter to Chairmen and Ranking Members of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees, respectively, in support of the House-passed version of the National Defense Authorization Act. The language in the House-passed version would enable the Niagara Falls air base to maintain current capabilities by limiting funding made available for the retirement or realignment of C-130 aircraft.   In their letter, the Congress members note that the air base’s C-130 fleet remains an essential component of our national security; earlier this year these aircraft carried personnel and supplies to areas of New York and New Jersey affected by Hurricane Sandy and in 2011, Western New York C-130 aircrafts flew over 1,500 missions in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Cahnnel 4 News contributed to this report.