Air Force passes over Grissom for new refueling tankers | news

BUNKER HILL — Grissom Air Reserve Base has not been selected as the home of the nation’s newest refueling planes despite urging from local officials and Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb.

The Department of the Air Force on Monday selected March Air Reserve Base in California as the preferred location to host the next KC-46A Pegasus aircraft.

The decision was made after conducting site surveys at six bases to assess factors related to mission, infrastructure capacity, community support, environmental considerations and cost. The Air Force did Grissom’s site visit and assessment in July.

Local and state officials worked for months to convince the Air Force to bring the new unit to Grissom, which would have included 75 active-duty airmen relocating to the base. The unit would have replaced 12 KC-135 Stratotankers with KC-46A Pegasus aircraft.

The Miami County Economic Development Authority compiled extensive data on the surrounding communities to show how they could support and promote the squadron. Local and state government units also passed resolutions in support of Grissom.

Holcomb and US Rep. Jackie Walorski in June met with the commander of the Air Force Reserve to make the case for bringing the fleet of new planes to the base.

The new Pegasus tankers are larger and more efficient and carry 212,300 pounds of fuel. They also have worldwide navigations and communication, cargo capacity on the entire main deck floor and improved force protection.

However, Grissom and Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma, are being considered reasonable alternatives pending an environmental impact study at March AFB. Grissom and Tinker will also undergo environmental impact analyses.

The Air Force said those studies are expected to take place in fall 2023.

Grissom had also competed for the same aircraft three years ago during the first rounds of site selections, but the base came in second place at that time as well.

Grissom Commander Col. Thom Pemberton said that even though the base was not selected for the planes, he believes they will eventually come to the installation.

“I truly believe that Grissom will be home to a new refueling aircraft eventually, but this just wasn’t our time,” he said in a release.

Pemberton said the KC-46 is the future of refueling and KC-135R will eventually be transitioned out of the military’s aircraft fleet, but that won’t happen anytime soon.

He said the planes have been “the work horse of the refueling business” and will remain an integral part of the nation’s defense.

“Grissom has long been known as the gold standard in KC-135R operations, and we will continue to be,” Pemberton said. “We maintain and fly them better than anyone.”

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