WASHINGTON, D.C. — Illinois' senators expressed disappointment Wednesday with the Air Force's decision not to select Scott Air Force Base as a candidate for its next generation aerial refueling tankers.
The Air Force selected five candidate locations after a review of existing refueling bases and may consider Scott for later tranches of the KC-46A aircraft.
U.S. Rep. Bill Enyart, D-Belleville, a freshman congressman who was just appointed to the House Armed Services Committee, released through a spokesman a statement Wednesday night in which he promised to do all he could to get Scott on the Air Force candidate list.
"Bill's top priority in congress is fighting for jobs while also protecting Scott Air Force Base," said Jason Bresler, Enyart's chief of staff. "This is why he is very happy to be on the House Armed Services Committee ... Bill is the best qualified person to fight for Scott."
"I am very disappointed in the Air Force's decision not to select Scott Air Force Base -- one of our nation's most important and valuable air bases -- as a location for the KC-46A refueling tanker," said Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois. "I will continue to work with my Senate colleagues and the Air Force on all future opportunities to utilize Scott's central location, superior infrastructure, and skilled and experienced workforce."
U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Illinois, expressed concern and disappointment over the Air Force decision.
"I am also concerned that Scott did not receive a site visit from Air Mobility Command until just yesterday. Scott'scentral location, capable Guard members, and proven track record make it an ideal candidate to serve as the Air National Guard-led Main Operating Base 2," Kirk said.
U.S. Rep. John Shimkus, R-Collinsville, said in a statement that he is disapponted with the Air Force decision, but "I am not down on Scott. With Scott housing the Transportation Command, AMC, SDDC, and additional wings and agencies, I am certain of its major role within the military. We always want to add more duties at Scott and will continue to work in a regional, bicameral, and bipartisan way toward that goal."
U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville, could not be reached for comment Wednesday evening.
The Air Mobility Command is headquartered at Scott, but there are no fighter planes based there.
The aircraft based at Scott consist mainly of the 14 aging KC-135 Stratotankers belonging to the 126th Air Refueling Wing, which moved to the air base from Chicago in 1999, bringing with it about 1,000 jobs.
Chicago-based Boeing Co., which in 2011 won the $40 billion contract to build the KC-46A's, plans to roll out the first set of the new air tankers by 2016.
The KC-46A will replace KC-135s that, in many cases, are more than five decades old. The new aircraft are designed to fly far further and carry heavier payloads than its aging predecessor. While the KC-135 Stratotanker had a top range of 4,000 miles, the KC-46A will be able to cruise nearly 6,400 miles -- an increase of about 60 percent.
The Pentagon plans to buy 179 KC-46As from Boeing and station them at 10 operating bases. The aircraft have an estimated price tag of about $225 million apiece.