The U.S. Air Force announced Wednesday it is moving forward with plans to partner Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard units stationed at the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station.
The association -- one of the first of its kind -- is expected to help strengthen the base's long-term viability by improving the efficiency of its operations.
Under the proposal, the Air Force Reserve Command's 914th Airlift Wing and New York Air National Guard's 107th Air Refueling Wing will share the 914th's C-130 Hercules aircraft.
Pilots with the Air Refueling Wing will have to learn to fly the C-130s as they convert to join the air transport mission.
The move could set the stage for more planes coming to the Niagara Falls base.
"Hopefully, this will get us moving on to securing the future of the base," said Merrell Lane, head of the Niagara Military Affairs Council.
The move is part of a plan approved by the Base Realignment and Closure Commission in 2005.
The commission's recommendations included moving nine KC-135 aircraft used by the 107th from the Niagara Falls facility to other bases.
There are currently eight C-130s at the Air Reserve Station.
Two of the 107th's KC-135s are slated to leave next year, with the rest gone in the following three or four years, Lane said.
The area's federal representatives have been advocating for the 914th Airlift Wing, the host unit at the base, to have a full complement of 16 aircraft.
"The Air Force's announcement today is an important first step in getting the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station to full strength," Rep. Louise M. Slaughter, D-Fairport, said in a statement.
The announcement was also hailed by Sens. Charles Schumer and Hillary Rodham Clinton, both D-N.Y., and Rep. Thomas Reynolds, R-Clarence.
"This is just one more piece of the puzzle of reaching our ultimate goal -- keeping our base open permanently," Reynolds said in a statement.
Wednesday's announcement was made by Gen. T. Michael Moseley, Air Force chief of staff.