A KC-135 Stratotanker refuels an F-16 Fighting Falcon over the Pacific Ocean during Exercise Cope North 2012 in February. The Air Force plans to establish up to 10 main operating bases for the service's 179 KC-46A tankers, which are meant to replace the aging fleet of KC-135s. (Senior Airman Asha Kin / Air Force)
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Formal training unit and main operating base 1
Ariz. Davis-Monthan, Luke
Ark. Little Rock
Calif. Beale, Edwards, Travis, Vandenberg
Colo. Buckley, Peterson
Fla. Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Eglin, Hurlburt Field, MacDill, Patrick, Tyndall
Ga. Moody, Robins
Idaho Mountain Home
Md. Joint Base Andrews
Miss. Columbus, Keesler
Nev. Creech, Nellis
N.M. Cannon, Holloman, Kirtland
N.C. Seymour Johnson
N.D. Grand Forks, Minot
Okla. Altus, Tinker, Vance
S.C. Charleston, Shaw
Texas Dyess, San Antonio, Laughlin, Sheppard
Wash. Fairchild, Lewis-McChord
Main operating base 2
Ala. Birmingham, Dannelly Field
Ariz. Sky Harbor, Tucson
Ark. Fort Smith, Little Rock
Calif. Moffett Federal Airfield, Fresno, Channel Islands March ARB
Del. New Castle
Ga. Robins, Savannah
Idaho Gowen Field
Ill. Scott, Peoria, Capital AP
Ind. Fort Wayne, Hulman
Iowa Des Moines, Sioux City
Kan. McConnell, Forbes Field
La. NAS JRB New Orleans
Mass. Otis, Barnes
Mich. Kellogg Selfridge ANGB
Minn. Duluth Minneapolis-St. Paul JARS
Miss. Jackson, Key Field
Mo. Whiteman, Rosecrans
Mont. Great Falls
Nev. Reno AS
N.J. McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, Atlantic City
N.Y. Stewart, Francis S. Gabreski, Niagara Falls ARS, Stratton, Hancock Field
Ohio Rickenbacker, Springfield, Mansfield Lahm, Toledo
Okla. Tinker, Tulsa, Will Rogers
Ore. Kingsley Field Portland
Penn. Pittsburgh IAP ARS, Harrisburg
R.I. Quonset Point
S.C. McEntire JNGB
S.D. Joe Foss Field
Tenn. Berry Field McGhee Tyson Memphis
Texas NAS JRB Fort Worth, Ellington Field JRB, San Antonio
Utah Salt Lake City
Wash. Fairchild, Lewis-McChord
The Air Force set the stage earlier this month for what could be one of the most heated competitions in years by releasing its criteria for selecting the first three bases that will host the service's next-generation KC-46A tankers.
The selection process comes amid the specter of another round of base closures, making the decision of which bases will host the tankers that much more important.
Ultimately, the Air Force plans to establish up to 10 main operating bases for the service's 179 KC-46A tankers, which are meant to replace the aging tanker fleet, said Teran Judd, of the Air Force's strategic basing division.
In the near term, the service intends to stand up a training unit and two main operating bases one led by the active component and the other by the Air National Guard, Judd said in an email.
The selection criteria include hangar, runway, ramp space and other capabilities; proximity to aircraft that will need to be refueled; environmental requirements; and cost, Judd said. For the training base, the criteria also include aircrew training systems and the number of students that can be trained.
Several bases are under consideration to host the tankers, he said. After all the bases are scored, the Air Force expects to release a shorter list of candidates by the summer.
The tanker's 2010 request for proposal listed 11 potential bases that could host the tanker, but that was not a final list, officials said.
"The 11 bases identified in the RP were representative of existing tanker bases and included CONUS [continental United States], overseas, active, Guard and Reserve and were for evaluation purposes only," Judd said. "The strategic basing process will use the criteria announced to screen all CONUS bases and choose the best locations to bed down KC-46A."
For lawmakers, the prospect of having their local bases host the KC-46A makes it less likely that the bases would be closed under a new round of base closures, for which the Defense Department is seeking permission from Congress. However, that proposal is http://www.armytimes.com/news/2012/05/military-house-panel-votes-to-prohibit-spending-on-brac-050912w/">meeting stiff resistance from lawmakers all over the country worried about losing jobs in their districts and states.
Retired Air Force Gen. Richard Myers, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the process of deciding whether to close a base does not come down to one criterion.
"There would be many factors that would be considered," Myers said in an email. "One of those would of course be the mission."
Both Air Force Secretary Michael Donley and Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz support a new round of the base realignment and closure process.
No Air Force bases were closed during the last BRAC round in 2005, when there were estimates that the service had 20 percent excess infrastructure, Schwartz said at a Jan. 27 news conference.
"Since 2005, our inventory of aircraft, for example, has declined in the neighborhood of 500 aircraft," Schwartz said. "And so the presumption is I think it's a fair presumption that there's yet more excess infrastructure. And so indeed, we certainly support the proposal to go through another round of base closure analysis and execution."
The Washington state congressional delegation wrote a May 17 letter to Donley praising the tanker selection criteria, which they say puts Fairchild Air Force Base in a "very competitive position" to host the tankers.
"Fairchild already possesses much of the needed capacity to accommodate the new KC-46A aerial refueling tanker as the Air Force has already improved the 14,000-foot runway, invested in a new, state-of-the-art fitness center, and last month broke ground on a new wing command headquarters that will better integrate active-duty Airmen and Air National Guardsmen," the letter says.
Furthermore, the base is well positioned to accommodate the Defense Department's new focus on the Asia-Pacific region, the letter says.
"The Spokane community is an award winning, proud military community that embraces all military personnel, their families, and retirees and is worthy of hosting the KC-46A aerial refueling tankers," the letter says.