New generation of refueling planes may be coming to Dover Air Force Base


The KC-46A Pegasus — shown deploying the centerline boom for the first time Oct. 9, 2015 — may be coming to Dover Air Force Base. According to the U.S. Air Force, the boom is the fastest way to refuel aircraft at 1,200 gallons per minute. (Boeing photo/John D. Parker)

The KC-46A Pegasus — shown deploying the centerline boom for the first time Oct. 9, 2015 — may be coming to Dover Air Force Base. According to the U.S. Air Force, the boom is the fastest way to refuel aircraft at 1,200 gallons per minute. (Boeing photo/John D. Parker)

DOVER — Dover Air Force Base is on a list of five possible candidates to house a fleet of new generation refueling planes.

Air Force officials announced Thursday that five bases, including Dover, could become the landing — and takeoff — spots for 36 new KC-46A Pegasus aircraft. The move could begin as soon as 2020.

Captain Sarah Bergstein, 436 Airlift Wing Public Affairs chief at DAFB, said that base officials are looking forward to taking the next steps in the process.

“Dover Air Force Base officials are aware of the KC-46A staging location options and are working through the timeline and logistics of the next steps in this process,” Captain Bergstein said.

The other potential bases for the refueling planes include: Fairchild (Washington); Grand Forks (North Dakota); Travis (California) and Joint Base McGuire-Dix (Lakehurst, N.J.)

Air Mobility Command will soon conduct detailed, on-the-ground site surveys of each potential base in approved assessment areas.

AMC will assess each location against operational requirements, potential impacts to existing missions, housing, infrastructure and manpower. Additionally, it will develop cost estimates to host the KC-46A for each of the five bases.

Once the site surveys are completed, the results will be briefed to Air Force leadership who will select preferred and reasonable alternatives for the fleet of airplanes. The Air Force plans to announce the second active duty-led KC-46A preferred alternative by the end of 2016.

“In this process, the Air Force uses criteria-based analysis and military judgment,” said Jennifer Miller, the deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force for installations. “We look forward to the next phase of the process when the preferred alternative is announced and our candidate base communities have an opportunity to participate by providing input for the environmental analysis.”

Dover Air Force Base is currently home to a fleet of C-17 Globemaster III and C-5 Galaxy cargo planes and employs around 6,400 military personnel as well as 1,000 civilians. The base, located southeast of Dover, has a total area of nearly 4,000 acres.

Dover AFB is nearing the completion of a $98 million runway project.

The KC-46As are expected to begin arriving at the second active duty-led global mobility wing in fiscal year 2020.

The refueling planes can carry around 212,000 pounds of fuel and are able to refuel two planes simultaneously.

The KC-46A has a wingspan of 157 feet and measures 165 feet in length and 52 feet in height — a bit smaller than the C-17.

By comparison, the C-17, has a wingspan of 169 feet and measures 174 feet in length and 55 feet in height.

A C-5 has a wingspan of 222 feet and measures 247 feet in length and 65 feet in height.

“Bringing the KC-46A online is a critical first step in recapitalizing a tanker fleet that has been at the heart of global response for more than five decades,” said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III. “This great new aircraft will achieve better mission-capable rates, suffer less maintenance downtime and improve the U.S. military’s ability to respond rapidly to humanitarian crises and contingency operations around the world.”

Air Force officials said 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 multipoint air refueling capability.

“The KC-46A Pegasus aerial tanker remains one of our top acquisition priorities,” said Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James. “It is absolutely essential that we replace our aging tanker fleet so we have the aircraft necessary to maintain the nation’s global reach for years to come.”

Dover Air Force Base has some history with refueling.

In 1960, the base received the first of 22 KC-97 tankers for the 11th Air Refueling Squadron. The tankers, which supported Strategic Air Command’s B-52s and B-47s, remained in Dover until 1965.

Delaware State News staff writer Mike Finney can be reached at

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