WASHINGTON — More than $100 million in construction projects at Tinker Air Force Base and Altus Air Force Base would get the green light under the defense bill advanced Thursday by the U.S. Senate.
A major portion of the proposed construction would be in preparation for the Air Force's new aerial refueling tanker, the KC-46A. Altus will host pilot training for the plane, while Tinker's repair depot will maintain the engines and airframe.
Tinker would get nearly $9 million to acquire a parcel of land and build a road and fence near the Tinker Aerospace Complex, while the Altus base would get about $31 million for a simulator facility and other related work.
The KC-46A, made by Boeing, is too big for existing facilities at Tinker, according to the Air Force; it's 52 feet high, about 165 feet long and has a wingspan of nearly 158 feet. New maintenance docks will have to be built on the land being acquired. The first planes are expected to arrive for routine maintenance at Tinker in 2018.
Altus is expected to get eight of the tankers and begin training in 2016.
The Air Force 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 medical evacuation, the Air Force said. It will provide aerial refueling support to the Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps and coalition force aircraft.
The 2014 defense bill easily cleared a procedural hurdle on Wednesday and is expected to be approved Thursday. The House passed the bill last week.
Sen. Jim Inhofe, of Tulsa, is the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee and helped write the bill.
The construction projects for Tinker reflect the diversity of the huge base, known primarily for the maintenance depot that employs more than 12,000 civilians. Most of the Tinker projects in the bill aren't related to the depot.
The bill authorizes $14 million for a hangar for the Navy's TACAMO E-6D, a command and communication plane.
It authorizes $36 million to build a fueling system for the E-3 Sentry AWACS aircraft to reduce the use of refueling vehicles. And it calls for $12.2 million for the Air Force Reserve squadron.