A half-dozen KC-135 tankers from Fairchild Air Force Base will be sent to North Carolina later this year as the Pentagon makes adjustments in its forces, Air Force officials said Wednesday.
The Air Force needs more aerial refueling planes in the Southeast, for operations in the Atlantic and the Caribbean.
Fairchild was chosen to supply six of those planes and 145 crew members because it has more KC-135s than any other base, said Lt. Linda Pepin, a spokeswoman for the Air Mobility Command.
The base has 4,100 uniformed personnel.
The announcement of the losses - which came late last Friday afternoon with no details - sent shivers through parts of the Spokane community that had successfully lobbied to keep Fairchild off last spring’s list of bases to be closed.
But the realignment is separate from that more complicated base closure process, said Maj. Mary Feltault, an Air Force spokeswoman.
The Air Force makes at least two “force structure” realignments each year to anticipate future needs, she said.
The alignments and base closures are not tied together, Feltault said. “There is no one major theme” in the adjustments.
Even with the loss of six tankers, Fairchild will remain the largest base for the flying gas stations.
The 92nd Air Refueling Wing, which will lose the planes, will have 54 tankers and the Washington Air National Guard’s 141st Air Refueling Wing will keep its 10.
Just how the 92nd will absorb those cuts is up to the new wing commander, Brig. Gen. Arthur Lichte, Pepin said.
The base has five squadrons, each with 12 planes. It could take one or two tankers from each squadron, or cut one squadron in half.
Lichte has not yet decided how the squadrons will be reconfigured, said Maj. Candace Ballmer, a Fairchild spokeswoman.
The planes and their crews are expected to be transferred this fall, she said. They will be going to Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in Goldsboro, N.C.