AF locks in plan for future KC-46A basing at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, NC

By Jason Sherman / September 13, 2017 at 3:28 PM

The Air Force today locked in plans to base KC-46A aircraft at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, NC, a move that comes following completion of an environmental impact study that found no significant impacts associated with establishing the service's third main operating base for the new aerial refueling tanker in the Tar Heel state.

Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek said the service, which in October 2015 the base as the preferred location for the KC-46As, notified North Carolina lawmakers that the decision is now final. Tinker Air Force Base, OK, Westover Air Reserve Base, MA, and Grissom Air Reserve Base, IN, were identified in 2015 as "reasonable" alternatives.

"That is going to happen," Stefanek said of the North Carolina option in a Sept. 13 phone call.

The decision will send an eventual 12 new tankers to Seymour Johnson, allowing the 916th Air Refueling Wing to modernize its current fleet of KC-135R aircraft.

While the Air Force originally planned to begin basing the new tankers -- highly modified Boeing-767 aircraft -- in North Carolina as soon as 2019, aircraft delivery is now subject to when KC-46A prime contractor Boeing delivers the new aircraft. The KC-46A program has experienced numerous delays during development.

Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) applauded the Air Force decision in a statement: "The addition of 12 KC-46A tanker aircraft at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base is a testament that North Carolina continues to be the tip of the spear for the U.S. military."

The Air Force previously announced plans to base KC-46A aircraft at Altus Air Force Base, OK, McConnell Air Force Base, KS, and Pease Air National Guard Station, NH. In January, the service selected Joint Base McGuire Dix Lakehurst, NJ, and Travis Air Force Base, CA, as preferred locations for the next two active-duty-led KC-46A operating bases.