WASHINGTON — The Air Force has decided to deploy its new fleet of refueling tankers in New Jersey first before sending the rest to Travis Air Force Base in California.

Republican Rep. Chris Smith says Monday's decision to pick Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst will protect thousands of jobs at New Jersey's second-largest employer.

The 24 KC-46 Pegasus tankers will replace the base's current fleet of 32 KC-10 Extenders.

Smith says the Pegasus tankers will arrive in fiscal year 2021, two years earlier than the second batch of 24 that will go to Travis.

The congressman says the deployment will further protect the installation from upcoming rounds of base closures.

The base also hosts eight KC-135 Stratotankers and 13 C-17 Globemaster III airlifters, and other planes and helicopters.

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