Rendering of a KC-46A Tanker, courtesy U.S. Air Force
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Wichita's McConnell Air Force Base has been selected to be the main operating base for the Air Force's new KC-46A air refueling tanker.
U.S. Senators Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) and Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), as well as Representatives Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.) and Lynn Jenkins (R-Kan.), issued the following statements Wednesday upon learning that the U.S. Air Force selected McConnell Air Force Base (AFB) as the Main Operating Base (MOB) #1 for replacing KC-135R tanker aircraft with KC-46A’s beginning in 2016.
Kansas was the only state to have both of its Air Force bases, Forbes Field in Topeka and McConnell Air Force Base, selected as finalists for the KC-46A Tanker Program.
“I couldn’t be more proud that McConnell Air Force Base has been selected as the Main Operating Base for the new KC-46A tankers,” Sen. Moran said. “Our state and the city of Wichita have a long history of supporting air mobility and standing behind the air men and women who call McConnell home, and I’m pleased the U.S. Air Force agrees that McConnell is the option whose location, capacity and mission will best meet our country’s needs.”
“The Air Force’s refueling tankers have a long history in Kansas at both McConnell Air Force Base and Forbes Field, and it is great to learn that this esteemed history will continue with the KC-46A tanker mission,” Sen. Roberts said. “Kansas airmen and airwomen time and again have demonstrated their steadfast dedication and hard work in contributing to the security of the United States, and our state, with its immense aviation infrastructure, has a great support network of civilian staff, neighbors and friends that help each installation achieve excellence. We welcome this new mission to Kansas and look forward to helping protect this nation for years to come.”
“America’s Air Force has once again called upon Kansans and McConnell Air Force Base to serve the nation with the world’s finest equipment,” said Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Wichita, member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, Co-Chairman of the Congressional Mobility Air Forces Caucus, West Point graduate, and Army veteran. “We’re thrilled that McConnell AFB has been recognized as an indispensable part of America’s defenses and excited about the opportunities this creates for the rest of Kansas. I look forward seeing the new KC-46A tanker contribute to our national security, from right here in the heartland for decades to come.”
“Kansans play an essential role in supporting our nation’s defense programs, and I commend the U.S. Air Force for naming McConnell AFB as the Main Operating Base for the new KC-46A tankers. This is good news for our state, and McConnell's distinguished history and capabilities make it an excellent choice,” said Rep. Lynn Jenkins (KS-02), Vice Chair of the House Republican Conference. “Although I am disappointed Forbes Field in Topeka was not selected, I am proud the 190th Air Refueling Wing was recognized as a finalist for the tanker program. As the member of Congress representing Forbes Field, I will continue to work with them to ensure they remain a strong candidate for future basing decisions.”
The selection of not just one, but both Kansas Air Force bases as candidates 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. 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.
As the largest air tanker base in the world, McConnell Air Force Base is a key stakeholder in the Wichita community. The base has been the recipient of numerous awards since its beginning in 1941, and received more awards over the past 16 months than all other Air Mobility bases combined. McConnell supports more than 17,000 people, military and civilian, and has an economic impact of $619 million. It assists all branches of the military and allied partners, refueling off of either coast and around the world every day.
Additionally, as part of the selection process, the Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce and the Wichita Independent Business Association teamed up to form a coalition, the Tanker Task Force, to help demonstrate that the business community is behind McConnell. Last month, the Air Force hosted an event on KC-46A basing selection that boasted more than 300 area residents showing their support for the base.
Forbes is considered a reasonable alternative and will continue to be considered for future installments of KC-46A tankers, and the Kansas Delegation intends to meet with the U.S. Air Force to discuss specific selection details. Forbes Field Air National Guard Base has a force of approximately 980 military personnel and employs more than 30 federal civilian and 60 state employees supporting missions overseas and here at home. It is one of the 10 largest employers in Topeka and Shawnee County and has an estimated economic impact of $75 million.
Governor Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) applauded the decision, calling it great news for Kansas.
"The USAF’s selection of McConnell Air Force Base in Wichita as the Preferred Alternative to operate the KC-46A is great news for Kansas and is a credit to the men and women at McConnell,” Governor Brownback said. “This major milestone could not have occurred without the community support received from the citizens of Wichita, our Delegation and the people of Kansas.”
The next stage of the Air Force’s KC-46 Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) process will include the release of a Draft EIS and a public comment period. This will lead ultimately to a Record of Decision (ROD) which the Air Force has projected will occur in the Spring of 2014. McConnell, which was evaluated along with bases in North Dakota, Washington and Oklahoma, would be the home base for 36 KC-46A tankers, subject to a favorable ROD affirming the selection of McConnell as the Preferred Alternative.
“Although there is more work ahead, we are very grateful for this reaffirmation by the Air Force of the critical role which McConnell plays in meeting its world-wide requirements,” Brownback said. “The demonstrated ability of the 22nd and the 931st to work jointly was a positive attribute in the evaluation of McConnell.”
The aircraft will be operated in cooperation by the Active Duty 22nd Air Refueling Wing, and the 931st Air Refueling Group of the Air Force Reserve; an Active Association between the Units is currently in place.
While Wednesday’s announcement brought positive news to the City of Wichita and McConnell AFB, another unit, the 190th Air Refueling Wing of the Kansas Air National Guard, operating from Forbes Military Airfield in Topeka, was under consideration to serve as the Reserve Component KC-46 basing site. The Air Force selected Pease Air Force Base in New Hampshire to host the mission for which Forbes and four other bases competed for selection.
“Realistically, it was highly unlikely that two bases in the same State would be selected to host the initial round of KC-46 bases, but the fact that Kansas was the only state which had two bases in consideration speaks of the high quality of the personnel at both bases,” Governor Brownback noted. “General Tafanelli and I couldn’t be more impressed with the 190th Wing for the capabilities they offer, and the professional approach they took in competing for the KC-46A Reserve Component site.”
Senator Mike Petersen (R-Sedgwick) also congratulated McConnell Wednesday in the following statement.
The McConnell base was in the running along with other bases such as Altus, Oklahoma which will receive 8 new tankers and serve as a training ground.
Currently the McConnell base has an economic impact of $619 million annually. The addition of the new tankers will increase this dramatically.
“I would like to thank the members of the Wichita and Derby area for their unwavering support of the tanker selection process, and congratulate all the members of Team McConnell.” Petersen said.