Tinker considered for new tanker aircraft unit; public invited to comment on proposal
By Jeff Harrison
Midwest City Beacon
The U.S. Air Force needs a home for a new fleet of KC-46A tanker aircraft.
That home could be at Tinker Air Force Base.
Tinker has been named a potential location for the KC-46A Main Operating Base 5. The mission will include 12 KC-46A aircraft and a reserve unit that will be used for aerial refueling.
The Air Force recently added the new tanker aircraft as a replacement for the KC-135 Stratotanker. The KC-46A provides more refueling capacity, improved efficiency, and increased capabilities for cargo and aero medical evacuation.
“This is the newest aircraft in the Air Force fleet and it’s ready to go,” said Col. Matthew J. Ghormley, commander, 507th Air Refueling Wing. “It has capabilities that I never realized would ever be in a tanker. The cockpit is amazing. It’s a neat plane all the way around.”
Tinker AFB serves as the maintenance depot for the KC-46A. Construction is still underway on the maintenance depot campus.
The base is also home to the 507th Air Refueling Wing, a reserve unit that handles air refueling, airlift, and training missions. If Tinker is selected for the MOB 5, the KC-46A would replace the current KC-135s that are used by the 507th ARW.
March Air Reserve Base in Riverside, California is the preferred alternative with Grissom ARB in Peru, Indiana, and Tinker AFB as reasonable alternatives.
Air Force officials are evaluating the potential locations to determine the final selection.
A public meeting was held last week at the Reed Center to present the study and receive comments.
“The Air Force collects all the data, making sure the environmental impact is well understood and making sure the public has a chance to voice their concerns and or support,” said Col. Abigail Ruscetta, Commander of the 72nd Air Base Wing.
The final version of the study will be completed by winter 2024. The Secretary of the Air Force will then decide on MOB 5.
If Tinker is not selected, it could be considered for future KC-46A missions. Tinker was an alternate for an earlier mission.
“There will be further opportunities on the reserve side for us to compete favorably,” Ruscetta said. “This is kind of our second shot, and we’ll have another one if we’re not selected.”
The Draft EIS is available for download at https://www.kc-46a-mob5.com/index.aspx and may be reviewed in hardcopy format at the Midwest City and Del City public libraries.
Comments on the Draft EIS can be submitted at www.kc-46a-mob5.com/ or by mail to: KC-46A MOB 5 EIS, 13397 Lakefront Drive, Suite 100, Earth City, MO 63045. Public input must be received by Aug. 14, 2023.