(WIBW) - Forbes Field in Topeka and McConnell Air Force Base in Wichita are among finalists to host a new tanker mission.
The Air Force is deciding where to house its new KC-4A tankers and establish the training program for them.
Forbes is among five National Guard bases named finalists. One guard base will be selected to house 12 of the new tankers. McConnell is one of two bases in the running to be the one active duty base chosen as home for 36 new aircraft. It's also a finalist to house the training program.
The Air Force will make its final decision in winter 2013.
Sen. Pat Roberts says the state's track record is in its favor. He says work with the aging KC-135 fleet and the intelligence component at McConnell are a plus. He also cited Fort Leavenworth's school for military officers and Fort Riley's home of the Big Red One as examples of the state's support of military operations.
Kansas Adjutant General Lee Tafanelli also cited the state's geographic advantage.
“Forbes Field and McConnell Air Force Base are ideal locations for these new tankers,” Tafanelli said. “Kansas is centrally located, reducing the flight time to either coast. Both Forbes Field and McConnell have room to grow and expand as needed, and have outstanding facilities and airmen.”
Forbes currently has about 1,000 active guard, reserve and civilian employees working with the KC-135 tankers. The Air Force's fleet is more than 50 years old. It's not known how winning the KC-46As would impact employment, but 190th Air Refueling Wing commander Col. Ron Krueger says it would be a step in ensuring the long-term viability of the base, since the Air Force will transition to the newer aircraft.
"This new tanker would be a natural fit for us because we have the facilities for it, extremely skilled airmen, and we know this mission," Krueger said. "Whether operating and maintaining the KC-46 or continuing with the KC-135, we have a strong future supporting the United States and coalition air power across the globe."
News release from Gov. Sam Brownback's office:
The Kansas National Guard 190th Air Refueling Wing at Forbes Field, Topeka, and Wichita’s McConnell Air Force Base have been selected as two of potential active duty and National Guard sites to receive the new KC-46A air refueling tanker being developed by Boeing as a replacement for the oldest KC-135 Stratotankers in the U.S Air Force fleet.
“The Department of Defense selection of Kansas as one of the finalists who may receive this new tanker is yet another confirmation of the tremendous value our state’s military instillations provide to the nation’s defense. Our airmen and women and their families sacrifice a great deal to serve their nation. They deserve nothing but the best aircraft available to help them perform their missions effectively and bring them home safely,” said Gov. Sam Brownback.
“Forbes Field and McConnell Air Force Base are ideal locations for these new tankers,” said Maj. Gen. Lee Tafanelli, the adjutant general. “Kansas is centrally located, reducing the flight time to either coast. Both Forbes Field and McConnell have room to grow and expand as needed, and have outstanding facilities and airmen.”
The Kansas National Guard is one of five sites chosen in the Guard and Reserve category while McConnell made one of the two active duty base lists.
Tafanelli said the Kansas National Guard expressed interest in receiving the tankers because of the new opportunities they would present.
“If we are selected to receive the new tanker, it will expand our potential for new missions,” said Tafanelli. “Tankers perform air refueling missions vital to the security of our nation. We already perform aero medical evacuations for wounded military personnel and can deploy Expeditionary Medical Support mobile hospitals quickly in emergency situations. There are many possibilities that come with these new capabilities.”
Col. Ron Krueger, commander of the 190th Air Refueling Wing, said the selection strengthens the wing's long-term viability and will help ensure continued aerial refueling excellence the 190th has provided since 1978 with the KC-135 Stratotanker.
"This new tanker would be a natural fit for us because we have the facilities for it, extremely skilled airmen, and we know this mission," said Krueger. "Whether operating and maintaining the KC-46 or continuing with the KC-135, we have a strong future supporting the United States and coalition air power across the globe."
The 190th currently flies the KC-135R Stratotanker air refueling tanker, which has been in service for more than 50 years.
From Sen. Pat Roberts, R, Kan.
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) and Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) announced that the United States Air Force recognized the critical role Kansas plays in our national security and global air mobility by selecting both McConnell Air Force Base (AFB) in Wichita and Forbes Airfield in Topeka as finalists for the basing of the KC-46A tanker program. McConnell AFB is a finalist for the Main Operating Base (MOB#1) and the Formal Training Unit (FTU), and Forbes Airfield is a finalist for the Main Operating Base (MOB#2).
“Today’s selection of not just one, but both Kansas Air Force bases is a testament to the critical role our state plays in supporting all branches of our military and allied partners as they carry out missions overseas and at home,” Sen. Moran said. “Strategically positioned in the heart of the United States, the location, capacity and mission of McConnell and Forbes make both bases exceptionally equipped to provide air mobility globally at a moment’s notice. Our efforts to ensure this outcome began months ago when we, along with state leaders, met with Chief of Staff of the Air Force General Mark Welsh to make certain he understood the value of air mobility assets in Kansas. I had the opportunity to visit with leaders at McConnell AFB this past Sunday and was reminded why McConnell is the premiere ‘super tanker’ base in the nation.”
“It is no wonder Kansas has two bases being considered for an important new mission, the KC-46A,” Sen. Roberts said. “With McConnell the top installation in the Air Force’s Air Mobility Command, and a front-runner in the Command-in-Chief’s Installation Excellence Award competition, and with the many opportunities for growth and performance at Forbes Field in Topeka, Kansas airmen and airwomen time and again demonstrate their steadfast dedication and hard work in contributing to the security of the United States. And, we have a great support network of civilian staff, neighbors and friends that help each installation achieve excellence.”
In addition to meeting with General Welsh to convey Kansas’ long-standing history of service and support to air power, in June 2012, Sens. Moran and Roberts sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley to encourage the selection of McConnell AFB as the first MOB #1 for the KC-46A tanker.
With rising maintenance and support costs, the transition from the 50-year-old KC-135 tankers to KC-46A tankers is the U.S. Air Force’s top acquisition and recapitalization priority. Starting in 2016, the base selected as MOB#1 will support 36 active-duty KC-46A tankers. The MOB#1 location will be selected based on criteria including mission, capacity, environmental impact and cost. McConnell AFB is competing against other Active Duty, Classic Association bases for the MOB#1 and FTU basing. Forbes is competing against other Air National Guard-led, Active Association bases.