Air Force Announces Bases to House New Tanker Refueling Aircraft
Air Force News Service
WASHINGTON, April 23, 2014 Air Force officials today announced two bases selected to house and operate the KC-46A Pegasus aircraft, which will replace the KC-135 refueling tanker.
Altus Air Force Base, Okla., has been selected as the KC-46A’s formal training unit, and McConnell Air Force Base, Kan., is the first active duty-led Pegasus main operating base.
The KC-46A provides improved capability, worldwide navigation and communication, airlift capability on the entire main deck floor, receiver air refueling, improved force protection and survivability, and multipoint air refueling capability.
Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James said the KC-46A remains one of the service’s top three acquisition priorities.
“Making a final basing decision is an important step in recapitalizing the tanker fleet,” she said. “We will begin to replace our aging tanker fleet in 2016, but even when the program is complete in 2028, we will have replaced less than half of the current tanker fleet and will still be flying over 200 half-century-old KC-135s.”
Air Force officials noted they analyzed operational considerations, installation attributes, and economic and environmental factors for each location before making a final basing decision.
“The Air Force chose these bases using operational analysis, results of site surveys, and military judgment factors,” said Timothy Bridges, Air Force deputy assistant secretary for installations.
Altus was selected as the formal training unit because it provides great training opportunities, and there is significant benefit of locating KC-46A trainers with both tanker and heavy receiver aircraft for training purposes, he said.
Bridges also explained that Altus was chosen due to better infrastructure capacity and considerably fewer new construction requirements. Since a formal training wing already is based there, he added, less active-duty manpower will be required to stand up the KC-46A training operation.
A final basing decision for the first Air National Guard main operating base is expected this summer, with the first aircraft scheduled to arrive in fiscal year 2018.
“The Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve are vital to accomplishing our air refueling mission,” Bridges said.
“Therefore, the Air Force will also build on the existing classic association with the Air Force Reserve.
Air Force officials noted that McConnell was selected as the first active duty-led operating base for the KC-46A because it has the lowest military construction costs and is located in a region of high air refueling receiver demand. Additionally, officials said, McConnell already has 44 KC-135 refueling aircraft assigned, and replacing those aircraft with 36 KC-46A aircraft will require the lowest manpower adjustments of the candidate installations.
McConnell also is an ideal central location for the new KC-46A Regional Maintenance Training Center, officials added.
“Tankers are the lifeblood of our joint force’s ability to respond to crisis and contingencies,” said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III. “The Pegasus will be capable of day and night operations and enable a rapid, global capability that will support U.S., joint, allied and coalition forces. The aircraft will also underpin our humanitarian missions.”
Welsh said he is committed to ensuring continued support of combatant commander tanker requirements during a tanker recapitalization effort that will last decades by continuing to fully fund upgrades and improvements to the KC-135 fleet.