WASHINGTON, DC – Today, U.S. Sens. Cory Booker and Robert Menendez, D-N.J., announced that they have secured a $40 million US Air Force funding authorization in the Senate FY 2016 Defense Appropriations that would enhance the capabilities of F-16 fighters based in Atlantic City.

“The inclusion of this funding in the Senate’s defense bill is a deserving victory for our U.S. Air National Guard - especially New Jersey’s courageous 177th Fighter Wing, who were immediately engaged in securing airspace over New York and Washington following the tragic events on 9/11,” Sen. Booker said. “Just as we have called on them to protect us, they are calling on us to provide them with the resources they need to effectively protect and defend our homeland. Today marks significant progress in meeting this vital need.”

“New Jersey's military preparedness plays an important role in the defense of our nation, and these investments will help ensure our F-16 fighters based in Atlantic City are properly upgraded,” Sen. Menendez said. “Securing this funding in the DOD appropriations bill is a win-win-win: For the Air National Guard, New Jersey’s 177th Fighter Wing and the American people.”

In March, Sen. Booker led a letter urging the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense to allocate funding for critical testing that will enhance the Air National Guard’s capability to detect airborne threats. The letter specifically requested funding to perform a testing regimen that is required prior to the installation of an advanced radar system on a number of F-16 fighter jets, including aircraft flown by the New Jersey Air National Guard’s 177th Fighter Wing in Atlantic City. The radar enhancement provides the capability to detect, track and eliminate multiple airborne threats, allowing pilots to locate targets of interest in the dense air traffic environments prevalent around major population centers, a critical capability for the northeastern United States.

The 177th Air National Guard Fighter Wing plays a significant role in national defense. The Fighter Wing operates 22 F-16 fighters that are strategically located at Atlantic City International Airport to quickly deploy and cover major metropolitan cities along the eastern seaboard, including Boston, New York City, and Washington, DC. Immediately following the events of September 11, 2001, the 177th Fighter Wing actively participated in air defense operations. Since that date, the 177th has been designated one of the 16 “alert” basing locations across the U.S. in the Aerospace Control Alert (ACA) mission. ACA is capable of deploying in rapid response to conduct both air sovereignty and air defense operations against airborne threats 24-hours a day, 365 days a year.