The U.S. Air Force has announced that McConnell Air Force Base in Wichita, Kansas will be the first KC-46A refueling tanker base for active duty operations. New Hampshire‘s Pease Air National Guard base was selected as the tanker’s first Air National Guard operational base.
McConnell AFB will now be sent 36 KC-46A tankers to replace KC-135R tankers.
The base is getting a $200 million infusion for upgrades required to become the main operating base (MOB 1) for KC-46A operations.
The selection ensures the base and its economic impact on the community will be maintained for the long-term.
These 36 KC-46 tankers are just one part of the first phase which involves replacing 179 tankers. There are two more phases afterwards, and all three phases put together will replace 59 KC-10 and 400 KC-135 tankers.
McConnell AFB was competing for this project with bases in Washington, Oklahoma and North Dakota.
It wasn’t all smiles for Kansas, though, because the Forbes Military Airfield in Topeka lost its bid to be designated as the Air National Guard led main operating base (MOB 2) for the KC-46A. This project was won by New Hampshire’s Pease Air National Guard base.
Apart from Pease and Forbes, three other bases in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Ohio were competing for MOB 2.
New Hampshire Governor Maggie Hassan said that on behalf of the people of New Hampshire, they were proud and honored to have the KC-46A with the Granite State’s National Guard.
Kansas Governor Sam Brownback said it was unlikely that two bases in the same state would be chosen for the initial round of the KC-46A base site selections. He added that Kansas being the only state that had two bases competing in the final stage of the process speaks for the quality of personnel at the bases.
Washington Governor Jay Inslee, whose Fairchild AFB lost out against Wichita’s McConnell, issued a statement in which he said the Fairchild community, Spokane County and the State had made important investments for preparing the base to host the tanker, and this was “an extremely unfortunate decision” by the Air Force.
The reasons for which McConnell and Pease were selected are explained here.
Altus Air Force Base in Oklahoma was also one of the unsuccessful candidate sites for MOB 1, but Altus did get chosen as the first KC-46A formal training unit or FTU.
These chosen sites for MOB 1, MOB 2 and FTU are only the “preferred alternatives” based on the results of evaluations and cost estimates developed by site survey teams.
The final site decisions will be announced at a later date depending on the outcome of additional approvals such as the Environmental Impact Analysis Process (EIAP) which includes a public comment period.