Michigan’s Selfridge Air National Guard Base could soon become the next home of the Air Force’s newest refueling jet.

The service on Thursday announced Selfridge, located about 30 miles north of Detroit, as its preferred location for a dozen KC-46A Pegasus tankers Thursday. The decision depends on the outcome of an environmental review, which is expected by 2025.

The tankers, slated to begin arriving in 2029, would replace the base’s aging fleet of eight KC-135 Stratotankers after they start to retire in 2027.

Selfridge was among 16 Air Force locations vying for the tankers, the service told Air Force Times. The base, established in 1917, is home to the Michigan Air National Guard’s 127th Wing, comprised of the 171st Air Refueling Squadron and the 107th Fighter Squadron.

Michigan Democratic Sens. Gary Peters, who sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee, and Debbie Stabenow held up the confirmation of Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall and nine other national security nominees for about a month in 2021 after the Air Force picked Ebbing ANGB, Arkansas, over Selfridge to host an international training center for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. Peters used the hold as leverage to secure commitments from the Air Force over the future of the base.

“Selfridge is a major asset to U.S. national security, and this decision reflects that strength,” Peters, who served for more than decade at the base as a Navy reservist, told Air Force Times in a statement. “This is a huge win for Selfridge, Macomb County and our entire state.”

Michigan lawmakers urged the Air Force in a Dec. 20 letter to pick the base based on “its strong operational track record, exceptional personnel and strategic location.” It also referred to a $100 million pledge from the state for runway and base improvements.

“We welcome this exciting news that will help to secure the future of Selfridge Air National Guard Base for decades to come,” a delegation of Michigan lawmakers said in a statement. “The 12 KC-46A refueling tankers — a larger unit than the eight KC-135s now at Selfridge — are next-generation aircraft that will strengthen American defense operations and capabilities for future threats, particularly as we prepare for potential conflicts in the Indo-Pacific.”

In its decision, the Air Force said the base also remains in the running for future fighter aircraft “or other potential missions.” Michigan lawmakers have also pressed the service for jets to replace the 107th Fighter Squadron’s fleet of A-10C Thunderbolt IIs, which are scheduled to begin retiring in 2026.

The Air Force plans to buy 179 KC-46A tankers from Boeing under a $4.9 billion deal. The first KC-46A was delivered to McConnell Air Force Base, Kansas, in 2019, two years later than planned. Production and design problems have plagued the program, and the jet remains unable to refuel the A-10 while engineers create a more flexible fuel pipe that can properly connect to the attack plane.

In additional to McConnell, KC-46s are already stationed at Altus AFB, Oklahoma; Seymour Johnson AFB, North Carolina; Travis AFB, California; Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey, and Pease Air National Guard Base, New Hampshire. They are also expected to arrive at MacDill AFB, Florida.

This story was updated Jan. 16 with a statement from U.S. Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich., and with basing information from the Air Force.

Courtney Mabeus-Brown is the senior reporter at Air Force Times. She is an award-winning journalist who previously covered the military for Navy Times and The Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk, Va., where she first set foot on an aircraft carrier. Her work has also appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Foreign Policy and more.

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