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Beale lands MC-12W spy plane mission
37: The number of planes in the mission, though only seven will actually be at the base at any given time while the rest are deployed.
550: The number of enlisted airmen Beale will add to serve the mission.
$450M: Annual economic impact of Beale on the Yuba-Sutter region.
120: Expected contractors to serve the mission.
The MC-12W spy plane mission will be based at Beale Air Force Base, bringing hundreds of new airmen and greater economic impact to the surrounding region.
"This should be a shot in the arm for the Yuba-Sutter area economically," said U.S. Rep. Wally Herger, R-Chico, whose office announced the mission's placement Friday. "We are so excited."
With the first plane arriving in May, by July the base will have up to seven of 37 total "Liberty" planes, while the others are deployed elsewhere. The planes fly at low and medium altitudes for reconnaissance and spy missions and are piloted, unlike the Global Hawks also based at Beale.
The mission will require 555 enlisted airmen, and Herger said he would expect it will require new civilian support staff as well.
Brynda Stranix, president and chief operating officer for the Yuba-Sutter Economic Development Corporation, said she expects civilian staff supporting the mission could number another 150.
Immediately, she said, there'll be a need for housing outside the base, though Beale officials have announced plans to build more on-base homes in the next few years. And those who train mission members will use area hotels, Stranix said.
She added her office will target the contractors, possibly as many as 120, who'll be servicing the planes in an effort to get them to base their businesses locally.
"When you're talking families, it could be up to 2,000 people who will be coming here as a result," she said. Over time, everything from recreation to retail will see an increase in demand.
Military officials first listed Beale last summer as a finalist to house the Liberty mission. But to guarantee it, Beale had to undergo an environmental impact statement and take public comment on the mission being housed here.
Herger said Beale was an ideal fit for several reasons, including its status as a top base for reconnaissance missions and strong support from the surrounding area.
As well, the base has the airstrip capacity for the mission, and is in relatively close proximity to Fort Irwin, a U.S. Army base in the Mojave Desert, allowing joint exercises.
Strong local support is a logical reason for the mission to come here, said a member of the liaison board between the base and nearby communities.
"The military, along with the Air Force, doesn't want to move something into a community where the people don't want it," said Tony Bevacqua, a past president of the committee for 18 years. "I don't recall anything in recent years at Beale the people didn't support."
He said people unaffiliated with the base are most likely to see an impact when home rentals and sales begin to improve to serve new airmen and support staff.
In a press release from Beale, the Liberty planes were described as twin-engine turboprop aircraft, with two pilots, a sensor operator and a cryptologic operator. The planes have been in use in both Afghanistan and Iraq to support ground forces.
"We have a long history of operating intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance weapon systems, and we are ready to add MC-12W to our Beale fleet," said Brigadier Gen. Paul H. McGillicuddy, commander of the 9th Reconnaissance Wing based at Beale, in the press release.
Stranix said it's possible the mission may lead to public-private partnerships to spur further economic growth. And though some might favor private-sector over public-sector development, she said, Beale's economic impact — figured at about $450 million to the local region annually — is undeniable.
"My father worked at Beale, and I tell people, 'Beale is what bought my roller skates,'" she said.
Yuba City Mayor John Dukes said the announcement is notable because many bases aren't in a growth mode.
"There are a lot of things happening at Beale," he said. "To have one of the only bases where there's growth and expansion in our backyard is exciting."
CONTACT reporter Ben van der Meer at 749-4786.