Air Force picks KC-46A candidate bases

The Air Force announced Wednesday the nine candidate bases slotted to potentially host the KC-46A next generation tanker. The first aircraft are set to arrive in 2016 at active duty units and 2018 at Guard units

From those nine, the Air Force will pick a training unit and two main operating bases — one active duty, the other Guard. Air Force officials said they plan to eventually station the entire planned tanker fleet at 10 main operating bases.

The finalists are as follows:

Active duty main operating base: Altus Air Force Base, Okla.; McConnell Air Force Base, Kansas; Grand Forks Air Force Base, N.D.; Air Force Base, Wash.

Air National Guard main operating base: Forbes Air Guard Station, Kansas; Joint-Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J.; Pease Air Guard Station, N.H.; Pittsburgh International Airport Air Guard Station, Pa.; Rickenbacker Air Guard Station, Ohio.

The Air Force will choose between Altus and McConnell to decide where it will station its formal training unit for the KC-46A. It will be at one of those two bases where pilots will first learn to fly the next generation tanker.

The Air Force currently houses its tanker fleet consisting of the KC-10 and KC-135 at Travis Air Force Base, Calif.; McGuire Air Force Base, N.J.; Altus; Fairchild; Andrews Air Force Base, Md.;  Kadena Air Base, Japan; MacDill Air Force Base, Fla.; March Air Reserve Base, Calif.; McConnell; RAF Mildenhall, England; Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, N.C.. The KC-135 is also stationed at Air National Guard bases in Alabama, Arizona, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Utah, Washington, and Wisconsin.

About the Author

Michael Hoffman
Michael Hoffman is the executive editor at Tandem NSI and a contributor to Military.com. He can be reached at mhoffman@tandemnsi.com.
  • Lance

    Hope they can station some on the west coast like McCord AFB.

    • Doug
      • tmb2

        Actually the list in the article says “air force base, wa.” Maybe Hoffman left off the name on accident?

        Also, just to nitpick the text a little more, they’re no longer McChord Air Force Base and McGuire Air Force Base. They’re now called Joint Base Lewis-McChord and Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst.

        • Doug
          • tmb2

            No worries Doug, we still call it Fort Lewis out of habit sometimes. My remark was made more towards the author than you.

      • TinkersDam

        You called it. Fairchild is on the list, as it should be. I would expect the initial deployment to reflect the “Pacific Pivot” we’ve been hearing about, and Fairchild seems like a good candidate.

        • sailor12

          If you look at the list and then look at the guard bases at the bottom of the article looks like there maybe some major base closures coming in the next 3 to 4 years.

  • Paul
  • stephen russell

    Why no tankers on Ford Island air base?
    Pearl Harbor Naval Complex, HI for TransPac missions.

    • Tiger
      • WILd

        He was right, like another stated it’s now called Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam. I know some just shorten to what ever is common for them

        • Lance

          I like to see West Coast bases not just Hawaii.

  • Adam

    Probably cause there’s no runway on Ford Island. I know I live there. Try Hickam AFB across the harbor.

    • Jay

      Hee, hee

  • deerbandit

    The base chosen for the State of Washington is Fairchild Air Force Base in Spokane. It is the largest tanker base in the United States. Hope this helps.

    • john

      McConnell is the largets tanker base.

    • That guy

      Fairchild is not the largest, not even close

  • SJE

    I understand having WA, and ND, but why OK AND KS. and nothing at the furthest extremities: FL/TX, ME?

    • deerbandit
    • Pauly

      One of those will be the training base, Altus is currently the training base for C-17s. It is centrally located, nice and flat with minimal local air traffic, and the cost of living is very low.

  • deerbandit

    The base in Washington State is Fairchild Air Force Base in Spokane. It is the largest refueling base in the Air Force.

    • TankerBoom

      Once again no it is not

  • Tony R.

    McConnell already has tankers there, and Altus is currently a training base for the heavies so the runways will already have the length and thickness to handle the weight of these aircraft. Same for McConnell

    • deerbandit
    • Geo

      McConnell does not have tankers anymore, they are an intel base. They lost the tankers they had. Forbes field now has tankers.

      • Rino
  • Hammer6

    How will the USAF make final selections?. A few years back, when planning for the (defunct) AFCYBER, the USAF was actively looking for concessions/incentives from states. I hope this practice will not be repeated.

    • Vaporhead

      The politican with the biggest clout will get the base at his/her home state.

  • Tanker Chief

    This article also fails to mention the National Guard operates the KC-135R out of Milwaukee, WI.

  • Tanker Chief

    BTW, all the active-duty bases listed as primary bases are former SAC airfields with +13K foot runways and high gross weight reinforced runway/parking surfaces.

    13

    • Dawson Canfield

      You remember SAC? They were the “other Air Force”. Did time at a co8uple of their bases, and they did have the strongest, and sometimes longest runways. Made for fully loaded B-52’s.

  • Tanker Chief

    Sorry, they’ve since added Wisconsin for ANG, but still fail to mention the ANG KC-135s in Alaska and Hawaii.

  • deerbandit

    Fairchild is also one of the only bases where the ANG and active Air Force share aircraft.

    • TankerBoom

      Dude you don’t know anything about the taker community, every post you have made has been wrong. Stop talking.

      • deerbandit
  • Sean Dione

    Thay also failed to mention Grissom Air Reserve Base in Indiana, which operates 16 of the Air Force Reserves KC-135Rs, and have done so since the base converted from Active Duty to active Reserve Base in 1994.

    • Tony R.

      Actually, the tankers have been there longer then that. I was there from 90-92 when it was the largest tanker base. I also remember having to use a five foot rotary hammer bit to drill through concrete to test for fuel in the soil. I think we drilled 2500 holes if I recall right. They used to fly the A model (steam engine I believe they called them?) and the R model. They also had the A-10s there and the occassionally the NECAP bird. I still remember all the alert lights along the NECAP route and the along the Alert route. The Alert facility chow hall used to make the best omelettes :)

      • Myron Kocher
  • Bryan B

    The NJANG unit that flies the KC-135R is also stationed on McGuire AFB. I believe they are the top candidate for the ANG(MOB-2) main base. They have a direct pipeline of JP-8, and all the facilities and resources they are looking for. McConnel and the 108th ARW NJANG will be the picks.

    • Larry
    • Larry
  • Papi1960R

    There is no hurry, Boeing is still has not finalized their specs on the KC-46A yet. It will take years., but will probably be done before the 1st F-35 Wing goes active. It better be the F-35 can’t go to McDonalds without a refuel.

  • Papi1960R

    Meanwhile Airbus has been busy pumping out its much more capable and significantly less expensive A330 MRTT. The RAF is ahead of schedule, having recieved its 5th much A330 MRTT Voyager aircraft. The French Air Force has recieved their first two A330 MRTT Voyager aircraft and Australia their 3rd A330 MRTT Voyager.
    If the original A330 MRTT selection had gone forward the USAF would have 6 Euro built Voyagers, with 6 more to come, before production began in Mobil, Alabama in Summer 2015. But hey, we gave up 22,000 non-union jobs in Alabama to protect 4500 union jobs in Washington.

    • Donald ONeill

      The A330 did not fit most tanker units as size and hanger, and being deployed around the world. It was limited with its size and the big factor cost over lifetime compaired to the Boeing. Another is most pilots prefer the Boeing not a aircraft that flys itself AKA computer run sometimes with no input. And last the old KC-135 has done well. No Airbus will last like that old bird. I rest my case with 33years in tankers with four wars deployed with135’s

      • deerbandit
      • Papi1960R

        KC-135 is a great bird and has served well. Its a good thing we did not change infastructure for the C-141, KC-10, C-5, C-17 etc. We always have to make station changes and upgrades with every new aircraft, sometimes every new upgrade.
        The most important factor here is that the Reason EVERY airline in the world has rid themselves or are in the process of ridding themselves of the distater that is the Boeing 767. High maintenence costs, labor intensive and low mission availibilty. Only about 18% of all B767s built are flying, most are in storage or scrapped. When I fly North from Davis-Montha, in my Airbus 319, I see 48 B767 sitting at Pinal Air Park storage.

    • RCC

      Hmm aircraft delivered without working AR systems, unable to meet cargo requirements, and requiring years of MODS to get them to the spec that was paid for, sounds like the right way to go. What Airbus pumps out is a basic A330 and then they mod it with a cargo door and mod with AR system later. They have had 2 AR booms fall of the aircraft, not break off during bad contacts, fall off while in flight.

      • Papi1960R

        The two boom failures were 3 years ago. Check the RAAF & RAF pages for current Pics & spec of the final results. I also meant just East DMAFB from Tucson International, not from. I can also see from the that vantage point, the 3 A300s and 2 A330s in storage at DMAFB.

        • TBone SeaHawk

          3 years ago…Maybe. However, Aussie A330’s are still unable to use their booms due to not being able to lower/raise them in-flight due to being too heavy. This was as of a little over a month ago while the KC-767J’s, with working booms, were station deployed just next to the Aussie A330 at CNG 2013. Also, the ITaF love their fully functional KC-767A boom, hose & drogue Tankers!

    • blight_

      If the UK gets poorer, we’ll inherit those A330’s like we are inheriting their Harriers. Wee, fun!

  • Lorin

    Besides a long thick runway, a ready supply of fuel and large hanger facilities are also prime drivers.

  • deerbandit

    Originally built as a repair depot for bombers during World War II, Fairchild has had tankers for more than 50 years. Initially they were stationed along with the B-52 bombers on strategic nuclear alert. When the bombers were moved elsewhere in 1994, Fairchild became the nation’s largest tanker base with both active-duty and Air National Guard wings.

    Recently, it became one of the first bases at which active-duty Air Force and Air National Guard units share planes in a partnership arrangement. Taken from the article, if you dont like it tankerboom stop looking.

    • http://twitter.com/AddisonGast1 @AddisonGast1

      Fairchild recently completed a 27 million $ makeover which included newest type fuel farm goodies. I think they knew this was in the planning before we did.

      • deerbandit
    • TankerBoom

      Your sources are wrong, sorry. I on the other hand am speaking from personal knowledge having been at both bases and know their primary missions and capabilities. There is only one supertanker wing and it is in Kansas.

      • Em
    • Moorevette

      In the early 80s Grissom AFB was SAC’s Largest Air Refueling Wing (305th AREFW). During this time Fairchild was SAC Bomb Wing with two tanker squadrons. After the B-52s left Fairchild, Fairchild may have become the largest AREFW when their designation changed from a Bomb Wing to an Air Refueling Wing. Both Firchild and McConnel are large capable bases.

  • Navy Raider

    Self ridge AF base Mich…….. http://www.airnav.com/airport/KMTC Brand new state of the art runways and tower, has had KC-135’s for 20 plus years. completed new state of the art Tower 3 years ago, runways 5 years ago, can control…Chicago, Detroit and Cleveland centers…The runway was built for the next generation C-5..Has had not just KC-135’s, but C-130’s, P-3’s, F-15’s, A-10’s and helo’s for the Army and the Marine’s C-46 and the Coast guard Sar helo’s…

  • candor

    During the Viet Nam era Navy and Marine aircraft could not engage in inflight refueling from USAF tankers and USAF aircraft could not do likewise from Navy tankers has this problem been remedied with these new tankers.

    • Pedropilot

      As a former KC-135A pilot, I say not true. The KC-135 had to be firred with basket (drogue) and hose, and then could have handled the Navy aircraft’s probe.

      • Pedropilot

        Sorry, I meant fitted.

    • Curt

      The KC-10 came standard with a boom and a centerline hose and drogue, so can do both on the same mission. Plus some KC-10s were equipped for wing mounted drogue pods. It appears the KC-46 will be delivered with wing pods but no centerline drogue.

  • Peligro

    Start folding up some flags…no wait, we’ll give them the obligatory Predator mission.

  • Tony R.

    Almost forgot, Grissom probably wouldn’t get much consideration anyway due to cost. They have no housing there. When the base was turned over to the Reserve all the housing was giving to the local community. Last time I heard it was being used as low income housing.

    • dan

      Making Grissom a reverse associate unit would be easy. Pease Guard did it. AMC delivered AD Airmen with no assets. And they get their huge BAH to pay for living off the local economy. At least that is what I am told. I never understood why there was so much unused potential at Grissom. It is just waiting for more aircraft! Or…. BRAC.

  • G Ramos

    Why not consider March ARB for the new tankers ,long run way ,18 fuel pits, and plenty of room,and hanger space,

    • Boom Town

      Or Travis could easily support them. Size of the aerial port is another important consideration. Fuel pits galore and long, stressed runway.

  • The dude