The KC-46A will gradually replace the Air Force's aging fleet of KC-135 Stratotankers. When the fleet is operational in 2028, the Air Force still will be flying more than 200 KC-135s. (Kevin Flynn)
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The Air National Guard will fly the next-generation tanker out of New Hampshire first, the Air Force announced today.
Pease Air National Guard Base, New Hampshire, will house the first Air National Guard KC-46A Pegasus unit. The base had been identified as a preferred alternative last spring. Pease was selected to receive the new tankers based on the results of a recently completed environmental analysis and other considerations, such as current infrastructure.
“The KC-46A Pegasus aerial tanker remains one of our top acquisition priorities. Making a final basing decision is an important step in recapitalizing the tanker fleet,” Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James said Wednesday in a release. “We will begin to replace our aging tanker fleet in 2016, but even when the program is complete in 2028 we will have replaced less than half of the current tanker fleet and will still be flying over 200 half-century-old KC-135s.”
The first KC-46A is scheduled to arrive at Pease in fiscal 2018, with up to 12 expected. The formal training unit and first main operating base, McConnell Air Force Base in Kansas, will receive aircraft in fiscal 2016.
Pease is currently home to the 157th Air Refueling Wing, which flies KC-135 Stratotankers.
New Hampshire’s Congressional leadership said that the basing decision will help the local economy.
“For decades to come, the KC-46As at Pease will provide critical support and significant capabilities that are important to our men and women in uniform, bolstering our military readiness,” Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte said in a statement released Wednesday. “I’m deeply proud of the 157th Air Refueling Wing, whose professionalism and performance made Pease the obvious choice to receive this new tanker.”
The Air Force’s fiscal 2015 budget proposal calls for $41.9 million in construction money to prepare for the arrival of the tankers.■