MC-12W turboprop spy planes head to California's Beale AFB

Yuba County's Beale Air Force Base is being put in charge of a fleet of spy planes that will bring at least 550 jobs and help boost the regional economy.

Capping a lengthy search, the Air Force on Thursday chose Beale over five other bases as home of the MC-12W, a small twin-engine turboprop that flies surveillance missions in Iraq and Afghanistan.

At least 550 military and civilian personnel will work on the aircraft at Beale in various operational and support capacities.

The economic benefits will be widespread. Because housing on the base east of Marysville is in short supply, the vast majority of Beale's 5,200 military and civilian personnel live in the surrounding area. Many live in Placer and Sacramento counties, said Ron Bartoli, chairman of a community liaison committee that works with Beale.

"The folks down in that (Sacramento) region don't realize what Beale means to them," he said.

In the fight for the MC-12W, Beale had a leg up on its competitors. It has served for several months as the temporary home to the MC-12W.

Still, Air Force officials said the decision on Beale isn't final. The base was named the "preferred alternative basing option" for the MC-12W, beating out rival bases from Virginia to Oklahoma. Beale must still pass an environmental impact study; the final decision is expected early next year.

Nonetheless, area officials were gleeful about the Air Force's announcement.

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