Dover AFB not selected as KC-46A base

The KC-46A Pegasus performs its first-ever aerial refueling Jan. 24, 2016, passing 1,600 pounds of fuel to an F-16 Fighting Falcon. (Boeing/Paul Weatherman)

DOVER AIR FORCE BASE — A fleet of new KC-46A Pegasus aerial refueling planes will not be coming to Dover Air Force Base, U.S. Air Force officials announced Thursday.

The U.S. Air Force announced that Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey, and Travis AFB, California, were selected as the preferred locations for the next two active-duty-led KC-46A Pegasus bases.

Dover AFB was considered as one of five installation finalists.

“The entire team, active and reserve alike, at Dover Air Force Base is proud to have been considered for our Air Force’s next-generation air refueling weapon system,” said Col. Ethan Griffin, 436th Airlift Wing commander in a prepared statement. “It’s a testament to our Dover Airmen and outstanding community that a non-tanker base, such as ourselves, progressed to final consideration for this important, national mission.

“We will continue providing tactical and strategic airlift capability through our C-5M and C-17 fleet, while hosting the Department of Defense’s sole Port-Mortuary and the East Coast’s largest aerial port, for years to come.”

The U.S. Air Force said 24 KC-46A aircraft will replace the legacy aircraft currently at McGuire and Travis.

“Joint Base McGuire Dix Lakehurst and Travis AFB were chosen as the next two active-duty-led KC-46A bases because they meet all operational mission requirements at the best value for the Air Force and the American taxpayer and support our tanker recapitalization strategy,” said Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James. “It is absolutely essential that we continue investing in the next generation of tanker aircraft so we have the aircraft necessary to maintain the nation’s global reach for years to come.”

Fairchild AFB, Washington, and Grand Forks AFB, North Dakota, will be considered as reasonable alternatives during the environmental impact analysis process which is required before a final basing decision is made.

At this time, the Air Force is planning to divest the legacy tankers after growing the tanker fleet to meet its 479 tanker requirement. The timeline is dependent on the KC-46A delivery schedule, but it is not anticipated to reach sufficient KC-46A fleet size and begin legacy divestment at the first location until 2019.

“The KC-46 will afford combatant commanders extended refueling capabilities, improved global reach, and enable timely joint-service response to humanitarian crises and contingency operations around the world,” said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein. “In fact in the fight against (the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant), the Air Force and joint and coalition partners depend on gas from our tankers.

“In 2016, the coalition flew over 13,600 tanker sorties, fueling aircraft nearly 80,000 times, delivering about 800-million pounds of fuel.”

Altus AFB, Oklahoma; McConnell AFB, Kansas; Pease Air National Guard Station, New Hampshire; and Seymour Johnson AFB, North Carolina; have already been selected as future KC-46 basing locations. The first KC-46As are expected to begin arriving at McConnell and Altus AFBs in fall of 2017.

The KC-46A will provide improved capability, including boom and drogue refueling on the same sortie, worldwide navigation and communication, airlift capability on the entire main deck floor, receiver air refueling, improved force protection and survivability and multi-point air refueling capability.

Travis AFB and JB McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst currently host the McDonnell Douglas KC-10 Extender.

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