"The KC-46A Pegasus aerial tanker remains one of our top acquisition priorities. Making a final basing decision is an important step in recapitalizing the tanker fleet," said Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James. "We will begin to replace our aging tanker fleet in 2016, but even when the program is complete in 2028 we will have replaced less than half of the current tanker fleet and will still be flying over 200 half-century-old KC-135s."
Pease ANGB was selected as preferred alternative in May 2013. The Air Force recently completed the environmental analysis required by the National Environmental Protection Act to provide further information concerning the basing process.
Air Force officials analyzed operational considerations, installation attributes, economic, and environmental factors for each location before making a final basing decision. Subsequent KC-46 basing decisions will use similar criteria.
Air Force officials also explained their rationale for choosing Pease.
"The Air Force chose this base using operational analysis, results of site surveys, and military judgment factors," said Timothy Bridges, the Air Force deputy assistant secretary for installations.
Officials said Pease ANGB was selected as the first Air National Guard-led KC-46A main operating base because of its highly successful existing active-duty association, which would lead to lower active-duty manpower requirements. Its location in a region of high air refueling receiver demand was also a key consideration.
Selection of Pease ANGB will minimize the challenge of fielding a new weapon system and avoid having to simultaneously establish a new active association.
"Tankers are the lifeblood of our joint force's ability to respond to crisis and contingencies," said Air Force Chief of Staff General Mark A. Welsh III. "The Pegasus will be capable of day and night operations and enable a rapid, global capability that will support U.S., joint, allied and coalition forces. The aircraft will also underpin our humanitarian missions."
Welsh also committed to ensuring continued support of combatant commander tanker requirements during a tanker recapitalization effort that will last decades by continuing to fully fund upgrades and improvements to the KC-135 fleet.
The first aircraft are scheduled to begin arriving at Pease ANGB beginning in fiscal year 2018. The formal training unit and first main operating base will begin receiving aircraft in fiscal year 2016.
Subsequent KC-46 decisions will use similar criteria.
The KC-46A will provide improved capability, including boom and drogue refueling on the same sortie, world-wide navigation and communication, airlift capability on the entire main deck floor, receiver air refueling, improved force protection and survivability, and multi-point air refueling capability.