By Melissa Murphy, The Reporter, Vacaville
Posted: 01/12/17, 6:49 PM PST | Updated: 4 days ago
Thursday marked an “exciting” time at Travis Air Force Base.
Air Force officials announced they selected Travis Air Force Base and Joint Base McGuire Dix Lakehurst, New Jersey as the preferred locations for the next two active-duty-led KC-46A Pegasus bases.
Around lunch time Base personnel were notified that Travis is one of two preferred sites for the KC-46A Pegasus.
“We’re definitely excited,” said Tonya Racasner, a Travis Air Force Base public affairs representative. “There are still steps we need to go through, but we’re excited. It’s clear this would not have happened without the support of the community.”
“The U.S. Air Force’s selection of Travis Air Force Base as a Preferred Alternative to operate the KC-46A is great news for our installation and we are excited for this enhanced refueling capability that will allow us to continue to ‘Rapidly Project American power anytime...anywhere,’” said Col. John Klein, Jr., 60th Air Mobility Wing commander. “The decision is a testament to the unprecedented support from our community who understands Travis’ critical role in enabling worldwide military operations. Looking forward, there is more work ahead and Travis is grateful for the new responsibility,”
Congressman John Garamendi, D-Solano, who represents Travis Air Force Base in the House of Representatives, congratulated Travis and the communities of Solano County on being named a Preferred Site for basing the KC-46A tanker mission.
“The Air Force made the right decision, and I couldn’t be happier,” Garamendi said. “Travis Air Force Base is the gateway to the Pacific. Its community support, infrastructure, personnel and geographic location make it the ideal choice to base the KC-46A tanker. I thank Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James for conducting a thorough and transparent strategic basing process.
“This decision demonstrates the Air Force’s commitment to Travis as a base that will continue to play a crucial role in our national defense for many decades to come. The future of Travis today is more secure than ever.”
Garamendi who is in Washington D.C. explained over the phone that besides a necessary environmental report the KC-46As coming to Travis is “essentially a done deal” and will replace the KC-10 extender.
He added that other environmental reports have been completed that didn’t prevent Travis from being selected so he doesn’t believe anything will be different with the next one.
He added that a lot of work went into making sure Washington D.C. knew Travis was the “very best option for the West Coast.”
Garamendi said besides Travis’ location, it’s a great facility with the right infrastructure in place. The community support also played a part, he said.
“They’ve been hospitable and enthusiastic about Travis,” the congressman added.
It’s been a long road since the federal government made moves years ago to eliminate the KC-10 without guaranteeing Travis would receive a replacement fleet, Garamendi recalled.
He said it was the community including cities and Solano County that banded together and fought for the KC-10 to stay until a replacement was figured out.
Reached by phone Thursday, Sandy Person, chair of the Travis Community Consortium, said the organization is “thrilled” and was surprised to find out sooner than they expected.
“We’ve worked hard to support Travis as the premiere military installation that it is,” said Person, who also is the president of the Solano Economic Development Corporation. “This decision is forward thinking to meet the future defense needs of our nation.”
“Our community is proud of the Air Force personnel at Travis, and we work hard to make Solano County feel like home,” said Person in a prepared statement. “We look forward to welcoming the new Air Force families associated with the new KC-46A wing and will continue to work with installation leadership to ensure their needs are provided.”
Solano County Supervisor John Vasquez said the decision continues Travis’ reputation of being the “gateway to the Pacific.”
“It means a lot to the surety of the base staying here,” he said and noted that Travis contributes more than $1 billion each year to the local economy. “We’re thrilled.”
The KC-46A, according to the Air Force website, will provide improved capability, including boom and drogue refueling on the same sortie, worldwide 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.
On its website, the Air Force explained that 24 KC-46A aircraft will replace the legacy aircraft currently at each of those bases.
“Joint Base McGuire Dix Lakehurst and Travis AFB were chosen as the next two active-duty-led KC-46A bases because they meet all operational mission requirements at the best value for the Air Force and the American taxpayer and support our tanker recapitalization strategy,” said Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James. “It is absolutely essential that we continue investing in the next generation of tanker aircraft so we have the aircraft necessary to maintain the nation’s global reach for years to come.”
Additionally, Fairchild AFB, Washington, and Grand Forks AFB, North Dakota, will be considered as reasonable alternatives during the environmental impact analysis process which is required before a final basing decision is made.
At this time, the Air Force said it’s planning to divest the legacy tankers after growing the tanker fleet to meet its 479 tanker requirement. The timeline is dependent on the KC-46A delivery schedule, but it is not anticipated to reach sufficient KC-46A fleet size and begin legacy divestment at the first location until 2019.
“The KC-46 will afford combatant commanders extended refueling capabilities, improved global reach, and enable timely joint-service response to humanitarian crises and contingency operations around the world,” said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein in a press release. “In fact in the fight against (the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant), the Air Force and joint and coalition partners depend on gas from our tankers. In 2016, the coalition flew over 13,600 tanker sorties, fueling aircraft nearly 80,000 times, delivering about 800-million pounds of fuel.”
Altus AFB, Oklahoma; McConnell AFB, Kansas; Pease Air National Guard Station, New Hampshire; and Seymour Johnson AFB, North Carolina; have already been selected as future KC-46 basing locations. The first KC-46As are expected to begin arriving at McConnell and Altus AFBs in fall of 2017.
According to James, a routine environmental review will be completed by the summer of 2018, with delivery of the aircraft scheduled to begin in 2020. The KC-10 Extender mission will continue until that time.