The Air Force released the criteria today for deciding which of its bases will get the first new air refueling tankers, and Fairchild will be among about 60 bases being considered.
That means the Air Force won't limit those first KC-46As to a base that already serves as a current home for tankers, but will look at most facilities in the continental United States. The main criteria for making this first list for consideration?
"A runway," a spokeswoman for the officer of the Secretary of the Air Force said after a short description of the criteria was released. That's essentially all bases with airplanes, although not every Air Force base has planes, Ann Stefanek said.
From that most basic of necessities for a jet patterned after the Boeing 767 commercial airliner, the Air Force will consider other important details, such as the capacity of the fueling system, available space on the runway, size of hangars, proximity to planes needing to be refueled, airspace availability, environmental considerations and costs.
The Air Force expects to have scores for all the potential bases sometime this summer, Stefanek said, and narrow the list further to a small group of top scorers from which the preferred site and reasonable alternatives will be chosen late this year.
The Air Force began briefing members of Congress and posted the criteria briefly on its website this afternoon. It later removed the criteria, even though it kept a link with a picture of a prototype of the new tanker refueling a cargo plane that promised information about the criteria.
Sen. Patty Murray, D-Washington, said she believes the criteria puts Fairchild Air Force Base in a " very competitive position" to be an early home for the new planes, which will be built in Everett: "I'm confident that Fairchild's long tanker history, strong community support and joint operations between the Active Duty and Guard place it in an ideal position to succeed."
The West Plains base has a new runway and a new wing headquarters under construction, Murray said in an e-mail. A letter from the state's congressional delegation to Air Force leaders on how the base stacks up to the criteria could be sent as soon as Tuesday.
To read the Air Force announcement of criteria for the first two new tanker bases, and the tanker "formal training unit, click here to go inside the blog.
Air Force announces criteria for basing KC-46A
5/14/2012 - WASHINGTON (AFNS) -- After extensive internal review, the Air Force released today its basing criteria that will be used to select candidate bases for the KC-46A formal training unit and first two main operating bases.
The formal training unit (FTU) and first main operating base (MOB 1) will be led by active duty units. The second main operating base (MOB 2) will be led by an Air National Guard unit. The FTU and MOB 1will begin receiving aircraft in FY16. MOB 2 will receive aircraft in FY18.
The basing criteria for the MOBs, approved by Secretary of the Air Force Michael B. Donley and Air Force Chief of Staff General Norton A. Schwartz, include mission (proximity to refueling receiver demand, airfield and airspace availability, fuels considerations, and the potential to establish an association), capacity (hangar, runway, ramp space and facility considerations), environmental requirements and cost factors.
The basing criteria for the FTU, approved by the secretary of the Air Force and the chief of staff of the Air Force, include mission (proximity of aircraft available to support air refueling training, student throughput, aircrew training systems, fuels considerations, and the potential to establish an association), capacity (hangars, runway, ramp space and facility considerations), environmental requirements and cost factors.
"The KC-46A tanker is a critical force multiplier and essential to the way this nation fights its wars and provides humanitarian support around the globe," explained Schwartz. "The KC-46A is a game changer, and will be a great asset to the nation, not only as a tanker, but as a means to augment the airlift fleet, provide aeromedical evacuation and transport of passengers and cargo."
"The Air Force is committed to an open and transparent process to address KC-46A basing," said Kathleen Ferguson, Air Force deputy assistant secretary for installations, "As we progress through the basing process, we will share information so interested communities are aware of what to expect."
The Air Force will evaluate all sites within the defined enterprise against the approved criteria. This information will be used to identify candidate bases for the KC-46A. After the release of the candidate bases, Air Mobility Command will conduct site surveys at each candidate base.
Site survey teams will assess each location against operational and training requirements, potential impacts to existing missions, housing, infrastructure, manpower, and develop cost estimates to determine how to beddown the KC-46 at each location.
Based on the results of these efforts, the Air Force plans to announce KC-46A preferred and reasonable alternatives and begin the environmental impact analysis process (EIAP) for the FTU and MOB 1 in December 2012. Likewise, the Air Force plans to announce the preferred and reasonable alternatives and begin the EIAP for MOB 2 in the spring of 2013.
"This enterprise-wide look enhances our ability to create, protect, and sustain all air and space forces across the full range of military operations," said Ferguson. "It is a deliberate, standardized, and transparent process."