MCCONNELL AIR FORCE BASE, Kan. (AFNS) --
A new era in Air Force air refueling capabilities took a giant step forward June 30.
Shovels overturned the first piles of dirt during a groundbreaking ceremony for the new KC-46A Pegasus at McConnell Air Force Base. The ceremony symbolized significant progress in the KC-46A program and that construction in preparation for the Pegasus' arrival has officially started.
The construction includes a two-bay corrosion control and fuel cell hangar, a three-bay general maintenance hangar, a one-bay general maintenance hangar and an aircraft parking apron.
Gen. Darren McDew, Air Mobility Command commander; Brig. Gen. John Flournoy, Jr., 4th Air Force, Air Force Reserve Command commander; Col. Joel Jackson, 22nd Air Refueling Wing commander; and other distinguished visitors had the honor of shoveling the first clumps of earth.
While the official party broke ground on the project, McDew acknowledged that the mission is really carried out by the McConnell community.
"Air Refueling is vital to Rapid Global Mobility - the AMC Airmen that maintain, operate and support our tanker fleet put the 'global' in global reach, vigilance and power. The KC-46A Pegasus will ensure we can continue to provide our nation with this amazing capability. The success of our global air mobility enterprise depends on strong leaders, and this ceremony is about the men and women of McConnell boldly forging the future of our air refueling operations," said McDew. "I have faith and trust they will exceed my expectations."
McConnell AFB will be the first active duty-led main operating base for the new KC-46A, which is part of a three phase effort to recapitalize the Air Force's tanker fleet. Jackson reflected on the current tanker's history.
"Since 1971, McConnell has been the Air Force's premier tanker base flying the venerable KC-135," said Jackson. "In 1995, we became one of three Air Force super tanker wings, and would eventually become the largest tanker base in the Air Force."
McConnell will be the first base to beddown the Pegasus, expected in 2016. It has a larger refueling capacity, improved efficiency and increased capabilities for cargo and aeromedical evacuation.
The new tanker will help to expand the Air Force's warfighting capabilities supporting the Navy, Army, Marine Corps as well as allied nation coalition forces and even other KC-46As.
Along with the F-35A Joint Strike Fighter and the Long Range Bomber, development of the KC-46A is amongst the Air Force's top three acquisition priorities.
While the Air Force is preparing a new generation of tankers, McConnell's mission will stay the same - to deliver war-fighting capability today and tomorrow.
"Be it the past or the future, our mission success has, and will always, depend on the men and women of Team McConnell," said Jackson. "We are prepared and honored as a total force team to forge the future of aerial refueling with the arrival of the KC-46A fleet."