Wrong slant on tanker story

July 12, 2014 

The recent "Scott won't get new air tankers" BND article would have been more appropriately titled "McConnell gets new air tankers." The implication is that Scott unsuccessfully competed with McConnell as the new tankers' initial main operating base, which is false. This is actually an apple to orange comparison. In reality McConnell is a large active duty tanker flying operation while Scott's is a tenant Air National Guard flying organization.

McConnell is home to the 22nd Air Refueling Wing and has four tanker flying squadrons plus an associate squadron at Pease ANG Base in New Hampshire. McConnell has been in the Air Force air refueling business since the early 1960s, has 44 KC-135 aircraft assigned and infrastructure built up over many, many years of service.

The Air Force's final basing decision for the first Air National Guard main operating base is expected this summer, with the first aircraft scheduled to arrive in fiscal 2018.

The frontrunner is widely viewed as Pease (Portsmouth International Airport). Pease is home to the Guard's 157th Air Refueling Wing, with a squadron of KC-135 tankers. They have been in the air refueling business since 1975. Pease is perceived to have a number of strategic advantages that would support selection over other Guard locations. Just like in real estate: location, location, location.

The 126th Air Refueling Wing at Scott has one squadron of KC-135s assigned. The Guard's 108th Air Refueling Squadron, known as the "Mid-America Militia," flies the tankers and relocated to Scott from O'Hare International Airport in 1999.

At the McConnell announcement, Timothy Bridges, Air Force deputy assistant secretary for installations, said, "The Air Force chose these bases using operational analysis, results of site surveys and military judgment factors."

Chin up. The jury is still out.

Bill Malec

O'Fallon

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