The Air Force is considering two bases for the next Active-duty KC-46 component and six bases for the next Pegasus Reserve unit, with a decision expected this fall.
The service announced May 13 it is looking at Fairchild Air Force Base, Washington, and MacDill Air Force Base, Florida, as candidate locations. One of the bases will be selected to host 24 KC-46s. The USAF is also looking at Beale Air Force Base, California; Grissom Air Reserve Base, Indiana; Joint Base Andrews, Maryland; March Air Reserve Base, California; Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station, New York; and Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma, as candidate bases. One of the six will be chosen to host 12 KC-46s.
All the bases currently fly the KC-135 Stratotanker, which the KC-46 is slated to replace. The Air Force will now conduct site surveys at each location over the summer, which “will be assessed against operational requirements, potential impacts to existing missions, housing, infrastructure, and manpower,” the Air Force said in a release.
The Air Force already bases Active-duty KC-46s at McConnell Air Force Base, Kansas; Reserve tankers at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, South Carolina; and Air National Guard aircraft at Pease Air National Guard Base, New Hampshire. Air Education and Training Command hosts KC-46 training at Altus Air Force Base, Oklahoma. Construction for future operations is underway at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey, and Travis Air Force Base, California. Tinker will also host maintenance for the aircraft.
Fairchild recently became a “super” tanker wing as it received 12 more KC-135s in 2019 and reactivated the 97th Air Refueling Squadron. “Super” tanker wings include four squadrons, and the base was expected to operate a total of 60 of the tankers. MacDill’s 6th Air Refueling Wing and Reserve 927th Air Refueling Wing operate 24 KC-135s.
The Air Force recently received its 45th KC-46, as deliveries have slowed in recent months.
Air Mobility Command and U.S. Transportation Command are working to free up KC-46s to fly some limited operational missions, in a step to alleviate stress on the legacy KC-135 and KC-10 fleets.