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Air Force confirms new tankers going to McConnell

Anyone holding out hope that the first group of new air-refueling tankers would be located at Fairchild Air Force Base can give it up. Pegasus won’t be landing on the West Plains anytime soon.

The Air Force confirmed Wednesday the first new KC-46As will go into regular service at McConnell Air Force Base in Kansas. McConnell was named the Air Force’s preferred choice for the first operational KC-46A tanker unit last May, with Fairchild as its backup.

But McConnell had to get through an environmental impact study with no unexpected barriers. On Wednesday, the Pentagon said it completed studies for McConnell and Altus Air Force Base in Oklahoma, which will be the new training base. Both passed.

In February, the Air Force announced the new Boeing-built tanker will be called Pegasus, naming it after the winged horse from Greek mythology that delivered lightning bolts for Zeus. Some people may also remember a red Pegasus as the trademark on Mobil gas station signs before that company merged with Exxon.

The Air Force is fond of naming its fighters for birds of prey and its bombers something macho, like Lancer, or mysterious, like Spirit. But previous tankers have had more prosaic names. The KC-135, which Pegasus replaces, is the Stratotanker, as was its predecessor the KC-97. That may have been a nod to the fact that they were assigned to refuel bombers for the Strategic Air Command. The KC-10 tanker is named the Extender.

An Air Force spokeswoman said Pegasus was selected by the department’s Community Relations Division. It was announced in a “soft rollout” by Air Force Chief of Staff Mark Welsh at an Air Force Association symposium.

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