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AF announces KC-46A preferred, reasonable alternatives

The KC-46 program's first test aircraft, a Boeing 767-2C (EMD-1), departed from its home at Boeing Field in Seattle and touched down at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., for the first time Oct. 15, 2015. (U.S. Air Force photo/Ethan Wagner)

The KC-46 program's first test aircraft, a Boeing 767-2C (EMD-1), departed from its home at Boeing Field in Seattle and touched down at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., for the first time Oct. 15, 2015. (U.S. Air Force photo/Ethan Wagner)

WASHINGTON (AFNS) -- Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, North Carolina, has been chosen as the preferred alternative for the first Reserve-led KC-46A Pegasus main operating base, Air Force officials announced Oct. 29. The KC-46As are expected to begin arriving in 2019.

Tinker AFB, Oklahoma; Westover Air Reserve Base, Massachusetts; and Grissom ARB, Indiana, were named as the reasonable alternatives.

"It is absolutely critical that we replace our aging tanker fleet with the KC-46A Pegasus aerial tanker," said Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James. "I am pleased to announce Seymour Johnson AFB as the first Reserve-led location because it is a testament to the Air Force's commitment to the total force.

“We must use all three components -- active, Guard and Reserve -- operating cohesively and seamlessly as one team so we can realize the full potential of airpower."

James also explained the 179 planned KC-46A aircraft are just the first phase of a three-phase effort to replace the aging tanker fleet. The first phase of tanker recapitalization will complete deliveries in fiscal year 2028.

During detailed, on-the-ground site surveys of each candidate base, the major commands evaluated the bases against operational and training requirements, potential impacts to existing missions, housing, infrastructure, and manpower.

The site survey teams also developed cost estimates to bed down the KC-46A at each candidate base. The results of the surveys were briefed to James and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III, who selected the preferred and reasonable alternatives for this mission.

"Seymour Johnson (AFB) was selected based on operational analysis, results of site surveys, cost, and military judgment factors," said Jennifer Miller, the Air Force deputy assistant secretary for installations. “The primary drivers for selecting this location as the preferred alternative were its lower costs and its highly successful existing active-duty association, which will lead to the lowest active-duty manpower required to stand up the KC-46A Reserve unit.”

Selection of this total force unit will minimize costs and the challenge of fielding a new weapons system while simultaneously establishing a new active association.

"Bringing the KC-46A online is a huge first step in recapitalizing a tanker fleet that has been the world leader in air refueling for more than five decades," Welsh said. "The incredible Airmen who will fly this great machine, and the joint and coalition partners they support in contingency and humanitarian operations around the world, deserve the improved aircraft availability rates, reliability and capability it will bring to the fight. Rapid global mobility has always been a core mission of our Air Force; the KC-46A will help us take it to the next level!"

The Air Force will also ensure Reserve component involvement from day one by establishing active/Reserve associations at all U.S. main operating base locations.

“The Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve are vital to accomplishing our air refueling mission,” James explained. “Therefore, the ability to recruit for and maintain a strong Reserve component association was a major consideration in this basing action.”

“We will now begin the Environmental Impact Analysis Process (EIAP),” Miller said. “We look forward to the inputs provided from the communities as we proceed through the environmental impact analysis.

“Once the requirements of the environmental impact analysis process are complete, the Air Force will make its final basing decision.”

Reasonable alternatives will continue to be evaluated during the EIAP. Subsequent KC-46 decisions will use similar criteria; therefore, candidate installations will likely compete for future continental U.S. basing decisions.

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

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