Thursday, Jan. 12, the Air Force announced it selected two bases to beddown its new fleet of KC-46A tankers: Travis Air Force Base, outside of Sacramento, Calif., and Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey. Both bases are set to receive 24 planes each, which will replace their current KC-135 fleet.
The Air Force also named Fairchild Air Force Base as a reasonable alternative, along with Grand Forks Air Force Base, in North Dakota. The process to beddown aircraft at the two preferred locations now moves to the environmental impact analysis process, which is required before a final basing decision is made.
In the first round of KC-46A siting a few years ago, Fairchild was also named as a reasonable alternative. Criteria in this round, however, was more competitive than before, as the Air Force included bases that could accommodate 24 or more aircraft. Previously, the Air Force limited its requirements to bases that could accommodate 36 aircraft.
Spokane was ready to host an Air Force environmental scoping meeting the evening of Jan. 12 to hear public opinion regarding the beddown of KC-46A aircraft at Fairchild, to help determine the viability of the base in the MOB 4 siting process.
“We are disappointed to hear the decision from the Air Mobility Command that Fairchild Air Force Base is not the preferred base for the next generation of tankers. Given its strategic location, community support, and proximity to a substantial aviation hub, we believe Fairchild is an ideal choice to receive these tankers,” said Greater Spokane Incorporated CEO Todd Mielke in a press release. “However, the Air Force will spend the next 12 months evaluating the data before a final decision is made and could still consider Fairchild should the preferred base not survive review.”
While many Spokane area community leaders expressed their disappointed at the decision, some looked to the future by sharing an opportunity Fairchild has to host reassigned KC-135 tankers.
Among the community leaders with a positive message was Mielke, who said the base is well-positioned to receive more KC-135s, increasing its fleet from 35 aircraft to 60, to become one of the largest tanker bases in the western U.S. Under this circumstance, it would mean Fairchild could see an additional 500-1,000 airmen plus their spouses and dependents. In that same scenario, Fairchild could also see increased construction spending to accommodate the additional staff and aircraft.
Greater Spokane Incorporated, through its Forward Fairchild Committee, has led community advocacy efforts for the base. Since Fairchild’s beginning, GSI has advocated for the vitality of the base, supporting a number of military construction projects throughout its history. Additional efforts in the KC-46A advocacy include making trips to AMC Headquarters at Scott Air Force Base, as well as the Pentagon. Additionally, last November, the Forward Fairchild committee met with Gen. Carlton Everhart II, the Commander of the AMC.
“This community supports Fairchild, its airmen, the Air Force’s mission, and has proven that for decades,” said GSI’s Forward Fairchild committee chair, Kevin Twohig in a press release. “We want and need Fairchild to thrive. What is good for Fairchild, as our largest single site employer, is good for the Spokane community.”