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The Air Force has selected the first three bases that will host the KC-46A tanker.
McConnell Air Force Base, Kan., and Pease Air National Guard Base, N.H., will serve as the main operating bases for the new tankers, and Altus Air Force Base, Okla., will be the formal training unit for the KC-46A, according to lawmakers who have been notified by the Air Force.
The Air Force has not formally announced the first three bases for the KC-46A because it is currently notifying Congress about the basing decision, said service spokeswoman Ann Stefanek.
But even before the announcement, lawmakers were both praising and condemning the Air Force’s decision on where it will send the tankers.
“I couldn’t be more proud of their selection as the very first active duty base to receive KC-46A tankers — selected from 54 installations across the country,” Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kansas, said in a statement. “The KC-46A’s will replace the U.S. Air Force's aging fleet of KC-135 Stratotankers, which have been the primary refueling aircraft for more than 50 years.”
Before Pease can host the KC-46A, an environmental impact study must be conducted, said New Hampshire senators Jeanne Shaheen, a Democrat, and Kelly Ayotte, a Republican.
“This is great news for Pease and the dedicated members of the 157th Air Refueling Wing,” they said in a statement. “We’re thrilled the Air Force recognizes Pease’s many strategic advantages as well as the 157th’s exceptional record of service. We’re confident Pease will continue to provide the best air refueling support in the Air Force for decades to come.”
Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., said the “there is no better place to train future KC-46A students than Altus [Air Force Base],” he wrote in a statement.
Meanwhile, Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., demanded a briefing from Air Force senior leadership about why Fairchild Air Force Base was not selected as a main operating base for the KC-46A.
“I’m extremely disappointed by the Air Force’s decision today, and I have plenty of questions on how they reached this conclusion,” Murray said in a news release. “With unmatched community support, world-class facilities and infrastructure, and an ideal location to support the military’s focus on the Asia-Pacific region, it’s difficult to understand how Fairchild was not chosen as a home for the tanker fleet.”
The Air Force ultimately plans to pick 10 main operating bases for the 179 tankers it plans to buy, with 18 KC-46As planned for delivery by 2017 and production ending in 2027.