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Pease committed to new refueling tanker

The KC-46A is intended to replace the United States Air Force's aging fleet of
KC-135 Stratotankers and provides vital air refueling capability for the
United States Air Force. (Courtesy Photo)

The KC-46A is intended to replace the United States Air Force's aging fleet of KC-135 Stratotankers and provides vital air refueling capability for the United States Air Force. (Courtesy Photo)

PEASE AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, N.H. -- Leadership from the New Hampshire Air National Guard have worked together with U.S. Senators Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) to devise a strategy to promote the 157th Air Refueling Wing as a leading candidate to land the Air Force's newest refueling tanker.

"The KC-46A tanker is a critical force multiplier and essential to the way this nation fights its wars and provides humanitarian support around the globe," explained Air Force Chief of Staff General Norton A. Schwartz. "The KC-46A is a game changer, and will be a great asset to the nation, not only as a tanker, but as a means to augment the airlift fleet, provide aeromedical evacuation and transport of passengers and cargo."

The Air Force released last month its basing criteria that will be used to select candidate bases.

The formal training unit (FTU) and first main operating base (MOB 1) will be led by active duty units. The second main operating base (MOB 2) will be led by an Air National Guard unit. The FTU and MOB 1 will begin receiving aircraft in FY16. MOB 2 will receive aircraft in FY18.

The basing criteria for the MOBs, approved by Secretary of the Air Force Michael B. Donley and General Schwartz, include mission (proximity to refueling receiver demand, airfield and airspace availability, fuels considerations, and the potential to establish an association), capacity (hangar, runway, ramp space and facility considerations), environmental requirements and cost factors.

In a letter to the Chief of Staff, the Senators together wrote that the 157th meets the criteria.

"Based on the metrics the Air Force has selected, we believe Pease Air National Guard Base is the optimal location and the 157th Air Refueling Wing is the ideal unit for the KC-46A tankers that will be assigned to the Air National Guard in 2017," the Senators wrote. "The basing criteria places a premium on a base's location relative to operational and training refueling tracks, aircraft-related infrastructure, as well as the presence of a flight simulator and Total Force Enterprise. In each of these areas, Pease represents a clearly superior base for the KC-46A."

The Air Force will evaluate all sites within the defined enterprise against the approved criteria. This information will be used to identify candidate bases for the KC-46A. After the release of the candidate bases, Air Mobility Command will conduct site surveys at each candidate base.

"The candidate bases will be selected as soon as this summer," said Col. Laurie Farris, Joint Force Headquarters state director of operations. "Site surveys will then be conducted to determine preferred and reasonable alternatives and begin the environmental impact analysis process. The Air Force should announce MOB 2 (ANG base) in the spring 2014."

"The Air Force is committed to an open and transparent process to address KC-46A basing," said Kathleen Ferguson, Air Force deputy assistant secretary for installations, "As we progress through the basing process, we will share information so interested communities are aware of what to expect."

The Senators pointed out the many factors that make Pease a leading choice for the new aircraft. Among them the base has one of the longest runways, operates with a cost-effective hybrid of Air National Guard and active duty Air Force personnel and is well placed along the operational flight path to Europe, Africa and the Middle East.

"When you evaluate the KC-135, which right now is 50 years old, then you fast forward 20 to 30 years, how do we keep Pease relevant in the future," said Farris. "As part of our Global Reach strategic intent, we want to be on the leading edge with the KC-46A; involved in Air Refueling, aeromedical evacuation and cargo missions. We have the strategic location, infrastructure and people to make it happen. With a thriving and committed active association in place, we believe Pease is the best choice for the KC-46A as part of the Total Force."
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