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Mississippi bases, contractors to benefit from defense spending bill

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(The Center Square) – Mississippi bases and military contractors will receive more than $1 billion in federal spending under the new National Defense Authorization Act that is headed to the president’s desk.

The bill passed 310-118 in the House and 87-13 in the Senate on Thursday.

The biggest line item is more than $1 billion for the fourth Flight II San Antonio class amphibious transport dock, a 684-foot ship that carries Marines with a flight deck for helicopters and tilt rotors and a well deck for landing craft and hovercraft.

These ships, along with Arleigh Burke class destroyers, America class amphibious assault ships and the U.S. Coast Guard’s National Security Cutters, are built at Huntington Ingalls Shipyard in Pascagoula.

Columbus Air Force Base will receive $39.5 million for construction related to the new T-7 Redhawk training aircraft, which replace the aging T-38 Talons that provide advanced training for Air Force pilots. One of the base’s T-38s was lost in a crash last November due to a bird strike. It was the fourth accident since 2019 involving the Talons, which entered service in 1961.

Also put into the bill was a prohibition on the Air Force retiring the T-1 Jayhawk trainer, which is used to train pilots flying large, multi-engine aircraft such as tankers and transports, before a replacement is judged to be as effective as the Jayhawk training system.

Bollinger Shipyards, also located in Pascagoula, will receive a $72 million contract to build a berthing barge, which is a floating hotel designed to provide accommodations for crews of ships undergoing refits or repairs.

Also, the Mississippi National Guard’s Camp Shelby facility will receive $7.6 million for rail loading capacity and railcar storage improvements ($2.2 million) and $5.4 million to complete a storage site for equipment used at the maneuver training area used for armored vehicles.

The bill also allocates $33 million for the construction of a combat readiness center for the National Guard in Southaven south of Memphis.

The 172nd Wing at the Jackson-Medgar Wiley Evers International Airport, which hosts a squadron of C-17 transport aircraft, will receive $8 million to build a new fire and crash rescue center.

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