The US Air Force (USAF) has released the criteria for selection of candidate bases for the first reserve-led KC-46A Pegasus aerial refuelling tanker aircraft.
The basing criteria was issued after extensive internal review. It includes proximity to refuelling receiver demand, airfield and airspace availability, fuels considerations and the potential to establish an active-duty association, as well as capacity and environmental requirements and cost factors.
US Air Force secretary Deborah Lee James said: "The KC-46A Pegasus aerial tanker remains one of our top three acquisition priorities.
"We will begin to replace our ageing tanker fleet in 2016, but even when the programme is complete in 2028 we will have replaced less than half of the current tanker fleet."
The USAF will validate all reserve-led global mobility wings with a runway of at least 7,000ft against the approved criteria, which will be used to identify candidate bases for the aircraft.
Following the release of the candidate bases, Air Force Reserve Command and Air Mobility Command will conduct site surveys at each base. They will assess each location against operational and training requirements, potential impacts to existing missions, housing, infrastructure and manpower.
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The survey team will then develop cost estimates to determine how to implement the KC-46A.
Identification of candidate installations is expected in spring 2015, while the selection of preferred and reasonable alternatives and the environmental impact analysis process would begin in fall, followed by announcement of final base in 2016.
Developed from Boeing’s 767-200ER airliner, the KC-46A is a military aerial refuelling and strategic transport aircraft designed to replace USAF’s ageing KC-135 Stratotankers fleet.
Boeing is currently under contract to deliver 18 KC-46s by 2017 to the USAF, which is planning to procure a total of 179 tankers by 2028.
In a separate development, USAF announced Eielson Air Force Base (AFB), Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, and Nellis AFB, as candidate bases to host the 18th Aggressor Squadron and its assigned 18 F-16 Fighting Falcons.
The aggressors are currently based at Eielson AFB, which has recently been named as preferred alternative for 48 F-35A conventional takeoff and landing variant aircraft.
The Air Combat Command will now conduct site surveys of the bases, while the selection of preferred and reasonable alternative bases will be announced in 2015.
Image: An artistic impression of a KC-46A aircraft refuelling F-16 Fighting Falcons. Photo: courtesy of the Boeing Company.