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Air Force Decision Good For Kansas

Opinion Press - May 28, 2013 10:16 am

The Topeka Capital-Journal

The Topeka Capital-Journal

Kansas won one and lost one Wednesday when the Air Force decided which bases would be the first to receive the new KC-46A air refueling tanker.

McConnell Air Force Base in Wichita was selected as the main, active-duty operating facility for the KC-46As. Forbes Field was among the finalists vying to be the first Air National Guard base to fly the new tankers, but that honor went to Pease Air Force Base in New Hampshire.

Congratulations go to McConnell AFB and Wichita. McConnell already is the largest air tanker base in the world, and its performance over the years certainly showed it was worthy of new equipment that will allow it to continue providing excellent service for decades to come.

The KC-46As, being built by Boeing, are scheduled to begin rolling out of the factory in 2016, and McConnell will receive the first 36 planes.

Pease is expected to begin receiving its new tankers in 2018. Although our hearts, obviously, were with McConnell and Forbes in this competition, Pease, too, deserves congratulations for its selection. It would not have received the honor without an outstanding record of service.

As a finalist among Air National Guard bases, Forbes and the 190th Air Refueling Wing remain a likely candidate for some of the KC-46As sometime down the line.

The 190th has been an important part of the Air Force’s refueling operations for a long time and has served with distinction when its personnel and fleet of tankers have been called upon. The Air Force would be wise to maintain 190th’s effectiveness with the new tankers when that becomes possible.

Topeka has been proud to serve as the unit’s home throughout its time here and that will not change now. The community and the 190th can take some pride in the fact the Air Force hierarchy thought enough of the unit to consider it among the elite of Air National Guard operations.

McConnell, Forbes and other in-flight refueling units in the Air Force have been using KC-135 Stratotankers for more than 50 years. After a long and contentious bidding process – it once appeared the contract for new tankers would go to a European firm – Boeing was selected to build the next generation of flying gas stations.

In addition to the first KC-46As off the line, McConnell also will receive a $200 million upgrade to its facilities in preparation of the new tankers.

Kansans can take pride in the role McConnell has played and will continue to play in defense of our country.

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