WASHINGTON — Altus Air Force Base was named Wednesday as the training site for the new refueling tanker, which will give the southwest Oklahoma base a boost in construction and employment, according to lawmakers.
The Air Force named McConnell Air Force Base near Wichita, Kan., as the winner in the race to be the active duty base to house the KC-46A. McConnell is expected to get 36 of the new tankers in 2016.
Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Tulsa, and Rep. Frank Lucas, R-Cheyenne, hailed the decision to give Altus the Formal Training Unit mission and eight of the tankers.
Inhofe, the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said the decision “confirms what I have known, what the people of Altus know, and what the airmen at Altus Air Force Base know: there is no better place to train future KC-46A students than Altus AFB.
“This decision will have a positive impact on Oklahoma and the city of Altus for decades to come.”
Lucas, whose district includes the pilot training base, said, “I am proud of the men and women at this base who have worked hard to make Altus the best option for the KC-46A FTU.
“Altus Air Force Base is equipped with exceptional air and ramp space, and is surrounded by a community devoted to their mission.”
The lawmakers said the decision will be accompanied by new construction and jobs for maintenance and technical support. Student training is expected to begin in 2016.
The Air Force, in a news release, said Altus was selected because the base already has tanker and heavy receiving aircraft for training purposes.
Moreover, the base has better infrastructure capacity and greater fuels dispensing capability. There will be less construction needed, and, because there is already a formal training wing in Altus, less active-duty manpower will have to be added than at other sites.
The Air Force currently plans to acquire 179 KC-46A aircraft to replace KC-10s and KC-135s. The new tanker has more refueling capacity, improved efficiency and increased capabilities for cargo and aeromedical evacuation, the Air Force said. It will provide aerial refueling support to the Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps and coalition force aircraft.
Altus Mayor David Webb said: “The Altus community is very proud of their partnership with the base and both appreciate and enjoy the diversity the Air Force brings to southwest Oklahoma. I look forward to the arrival of the KC-46A team and the opportunity to work with base leadership in such a critical phase for our national defense.”