Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), founder of the Senate Tanker Caucus, met with Air Mobility Command boss Gen. Arthur Lichte June 12 to discuss fielding plans for the service’s new KC-45 tanker and the potential to make Grand Forks Air Force Base, outside the city of Grand Forks, one of the first bases to receive the new aircraft, reports the Grand Forks Herald (requires free sign-up).BRAC 2005 stripped the North Dakota facility of its current KC-135 tanker mission—the aircraft are slated to depart by 2011, when the Air Force expects to begin receiving the new tanker. While the base already has picked up a new mission, operating and maintaining both the Predator and Global Hawk unmanned aerial vehicles, the state’s Congressional delegation has been pressing USAF to also place KC-45 aircraft at Grand Forks. Without declaring outright victory in the tanker mission hunt, Conrad said, “Today’s meeting with General Lichte only further confirmed the fact that Grand Forks will continue to play a key role in the Air Force’s long-term strategic operations.” An earlier Herald report offered perhaps a more direct affirmation with this Conrad statement: “Grand Forks is a perfect fit to host the new tankers. That is a message we have heard from the Air Force in the past and that is the message that General Lichte again delivered today.”
The Air Force overall reduced its size by 120 aircraft in fiscal year 2021, but kept about the same number of fighter, bomber and attack aircraft, according to data supplied by the service. The F-35 fleet saw the biggest increase while the B-1B bomber fleet saw the largest decline.