FAIRCHILD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. -- Base leaders held a press conference Wednesday about the recent tanker decision which impacts Fairchild.
The Base was not chosen as the first home of the Air Force's new aerial refueling tankers. Members of the Kansas congressional delegation announced that McConnell Air Force Base in Topeka, Kan., was chosen as the first base to receive the new Boeing-built KC-46A tankers.
Fairchild remains a candidate to receive new tankers later. The new aircraft will replace the aging KC-135 fleet flown by crews, including those at Fairchild, for the past 50 years. The Air Force will base 36 of the new aircraft at McConnell starting in 2016.
“Our KC-135s are critical to fueling the fight and fueling freedom, now and for the foreseeable future” said 92nd Air Refueling Wing Commander Col. Brian Newberry. “While the KC-46A is an important step in recapitalizing the tanker fleet, we will continue to perform our critical mission of worldwide aerial refueling with the venerable KC-135.”
Fairchild leaders expect the final decision in spring 2014.
“Having something now, or having something later, just know fairchilds future is bright,” said Newberry.
Air Force leaders visited each base prior to their decision according to Fairchild leaders. They evaluated the bases’ operational and training requirements. Air Force leaders also considered potential impacts to existing missions, housing, infrastructure, and manpower. The site survey teams also estimated the costs of bringing the KC-46A for each candidate base.
McConnell AFB was selected as the preferred alternative for the KC-46A MOB 1 because it is located in a region of high air refueling receiver demand according to a release from Fairchild personnel. McConnell AFB already has 44 KC-135 refueling aircraft assigned; replacing those aircraft with 36 KC-46A aircraft will require the lowest manpower adjustments of the candidate installations.
Air Force Chief of Staff, Gen. Mark A. Welsh III. Said the 179 planned KC-46A aircraft are just the first phase of a three-phase effort to replace more than 400 KC-135 and 59 KC-10 aircraft. The first phase will complete deliveries in 2028.
The Air Force plans to base KC-46A at up to 10 locations. Newberry said Fairchild’s location makes it a favorable for getting new tankers in the future.
“If indeed Fairchild is chosen to fly the KC-46A in the future, we will do so with the same level of partnership with the 141st Washington Air National Guard Refueling Wing and dedication our Airmen continuously provide,” added Newberry.