Air Force plans major construction at Tinker Air Force Base, reduction in AWACS

The U.S. Air Force released its budget for 2015 that continues heavy investment at Tinker to prepare for new refueling plane; as part of budget cutting, the service will cut a quarter of the AWACS at the Oklahoma base.
by Chris Casteel Modified: March 6, 2014 at 8:00 pm •  Published: March 5, 2014

The U.S. Air Force plans to cut a quarter of the AWACS planes at Tinker Air Force Base, but station more air refueling tankers there and spend $111 million to build a maintenance depot space for the next generation of air refueling planes, according to the Air Force budget released Wednesday.

Looking to reshape the service under tight spending constraints, the Air Force said in budget documents that it would reduce its capacity of Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) aircraft by seven; Tinker currently has 28 of the planes.

The E-3G aircraft are equipped with a rotating radar dome with a range of 250 miles; the planes can detect enemy aircraft and ship movements and quickly relay information needed for battle situations.

The Air Force said it would continue modernizing the remaining fleet and fielding a variation of the E-3G.

None of the remaining AWACS planes will be associated now with an Air Force Reserve unit at Tinker. Instead the Air Force plans to adjust the Reserve mission at the base by adding four KC-135s — air refueling tankers — to the eight already there.

Despite budget pressures, the Air Force plans to continue investing heavily at Tinker to prepare for maintenance work on the new Boeing-built refueling tanker, the KC-46A.

This year’s budget included $9 million to purchase land and build a road and fence near the Tinker Aerospace Complex.

For next year, the Air Force wants $63 million to build a two-bay maintenance hangar and another $48 million for infrastructure to support the depot.

Tinker has a huge aircraft maintenance complex, but the KC-46A is too big for it, according to the Air Force. The plane is 52 feet high, about 165 feet long and has a wingspan of nearly 158 feet.

Oklahoma is one of only 10 states in which the Air Force is planning construction projects next year; Air Force budget documents state only the highest-priority projects were requested.

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by Chris Casteel
Washington Bureau
Chris Casteel began working for The Oklahoman's Norman bureau in 1982 while a student at the University of Oklahoma. After covering the police beat, federal courts and the state Legislature in Oklahoma City, he moved to Washington in 1990, where...
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