The Air Force announced that Altus Air Force Base, Okla., and McConnell Air Force Base, Kan., as candidate bases for the KC-46A formal training unit (FTU).
Altus Air Force Base, Okla.; Fairchild Air Force Base, Wash.; Grand Forks Air Force Base, N.D.; and McConnell Air Force Base, Kan., are candidate bases for the first active-duty led KC-46A main operating base (MOB).
Rickenbacker Air Guard Station, Ohio; Forbes Air Guard Station, Kan.; Joint-Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J.; Pease Air Guard Station, N.H.; and Pittsburgh International Airport Air Guard Station, Pa.; are candidate bases for the first Air National Guard led KC-46A MOB.
“The KC-46A will have enhanced refueling capacity and capabilities, improved efficiency, and increased capabilities for cargo and aeromedical evacuation as compared to the KC-135R, making it a vital component to maintaining our global reach for years to come,” said Gen. Mark Welsh III, Air Force chief of staff.
The major commands will conduct detailed, on-the-ground site surveys of each candidate base. They will assess each location against operational and training requirements, potential impacts to existing missions, housing, infrastructure, and manpower. Additionally, they will develop cost estimates to bed down the KC-46A for each candidate base. Once the site surveys are completed, the results will be briefed to the secretary of the Air Force and chief of staff of the Air Force to select preferred and reasonable alternatives for the FTU and two operating locations. The Air Force plans to announce KC-46A preferred and reasonable alternatives and begin the Environmental Impact Analysis Process (EIAP) in spring 2013.
“Bringing the KC-46A online is an important step in recapitalizing a tanker fleet that has been a leader in air refueling for more than five decades,” Welsh said. “This new age aircraft will achieve better mission-capable rates with less maintenance downtime, improving our ability to respond with rapid, global capability to assist U.S., joint, allied and coalition forces and better support humanitarian missions.”
Welsh went on to explain that the 179 planned KC-46A aircraft are just the first phase of a 3-phase effort to replace more than 400 KC-135 and 59 KC-10 aircraft. The first phase of tanker recapitalization will complete deliveries in fiscal 2028. He went on to emphasize the importance of continuing KC-135 modernization efforts.
“I want to stress that the KC-135 units not replaced with the KC-46A will continue to fly the KC-135R for the foreseeable future,” Welsh said. “Throughout tanker recapitalization, the Air Force is committed to ensuring continued support of combatant commander requirements.”
“We are committed to executing a deliberate, repeatable and standardized basing process,” said Kathleen Ferguson, Air Force principal deputy assistant secretary for installations, environment and logistics. “In this process, the Air Force uses criteria-based analysis and military judgment in its decision making.”
Ferguson added “We look forward to the next phase when preferred and reasonable alternatives are announced and our candidate base communities have an opportunity to participate by providing input for the environmental impact analysis.”
The KC-46A will provide improved capability, including boom and drogue refueling on the same sortie, world-wide navigation and communication, airlift capability on the entire main deck floor, receiver air refueling, improved force protection and survivability, and multi-point air refueling capability.
The FTU and active duty MOB will begin receiving aircraft in fiscal 2016. The Air National Guard MOB will receive aircraft in fiscal 2018.