Eight Air Force bases are in the running to receive the next KC-46A Pegasus tanker units, the service said Thursday.
Two active-duty installations, Fairchild Air Force Base, Washington, and MacDill AFB, Florida, are competing for 24 KC-46A jets that will replace older KC-135 Stratotankers.
Six bases are also vying for their own new Air Force Reserve tankers: Beale AFB and March Air Reserve Base, California; Grissom ARB, Indiana; Niagara Falls ARB, New York; Tinker AFB, Oklahoma; and Joint Base Andrews, Maryland. The winner will get 12 KC-46As to replace their Stratotankers.
“Site surveys at each candidate main operating base will be conducted this summer and will be assessed against operational requirements, potential impacts to existing missions, housing, infrastructure and manpower,” the Air Force said in a release.
It plans to pick its preferred locations this fall.
Six other bases have already received, or are expected to get, the new tanker: McConnell AFB, Kansas; Altus AFB, Oklahoma; Seymour Johnson AFB, North Carolina; Travis AFB, California; Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey; and Pease Air National Guard Base, New Hampshire.
Boeing has delivered 45 of the jets in its $4.9 billion, 179-plane contract so far. The company has also amassed a bill of more than $5 billion it owes the Defense Department for cost overruns related to myriad design problems on the key Air Force program.
Despite those issues, Air Mobility Command said earlier this year the KC-46 could become available to U.S. Transportation Command for some operational missions by the end of 2021.
“Today the KC-46 may provide aerial refueling for F-16s participating in a U.S.-based training exercise,” AMC boss Gen. Jacqueline Van Ovost said. “Under this new approach, if AMC is tasked to provide [aerial refueling] support for an operational coronet mission to move F-18s overseas or an operational B-52 mission, the KC-46 is on the table, which frees up KC-135s and KC-10s to execute other combatant command deployments that the KC-46 is presently unable to support with its existing deficiencies.”
Rachel Cohen is the editor of Air Force Times. She joined the publication as its senior reporter in March 2021. Her work has appeared in the Washington Post, the Frederick News-Post (Md.), Air and Space Forces Magazine, Inside Defense, Inside Health Policy and elsewhere.