Air Force To Announce Tanker Decision Wednesday By Rick Plumlee

Wichita Eagle
May 22, 2013

McConnell Air Force Base will learn Wednesday morning whether it has been selected as one of the homes for the new refueling tankers.

The Air Force is scheduled to inform the congressional delegations from the states involved of its decision by late morning.

The offices of Sen. Jerry Moran and U.S. Rep. Mike Pompeo said Tuesday night they have not been told the final selections.

McConnell is a finalist to receive the KC-46A tankers in two of three categories of bases.

The Wichita base is among four finalists to receive new 36 tankers in 2016 as the main active-duty base, joining Altus, Okla.; Grand Forks, N.D.; and Fairchild in Spokane, Wash. McConnell and Altus are the only two being considered to receive up to eight new tankers as a formal training base.

No base will be picked for both categories.

In addition, Topeka’s Forbes Field is among five finalists for an Air National Guard-led main operating base to receive 12 new tankers in 2018.

The decision has followed a long selection process, including on-site visits by a team from the Air Force and Department of Defense. A point system was used to narrow the field down to nine from 54 in January.

McConnell is already the world’s largest tanker base with 62 KC-135s, five-decade-old planes that will be phased out by the new tankers. Fairchild has about 30 current tankers, and Altus serves as a training base for tanker crews.

Boeing has a $35 billion contract to build 179 new tankers.

Another round of base assignment of new tankers is expected to be held in a couple of years. The Air Force has said it hopes to eventually have 10 bases with new tankers.

Wednesday’s announcement will give the Air Force’s “preferred” selection of bases, but the decision won’t be final until an environmental impact statement is completed in the spring of 2014.

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