Spokane loses bid to be KC-46 tanker base

Spokane’s Fairchild Air Force Base will not be the operating base for the Air Force’s new KC-46A aerial refueling tanker.

The Air Force has selected Wichita’s McConnell Air Force Base as the base for the new tankers, which are being built by the Boeing Co.

Members of the Kansas congressional delegation issued a joint statement Wednesday announcing the Air Force decision. The aircraft will replace the aging KC-135 fleet flown by crews for the past 50 years.

According to the delegation, the Air Force will base 36 of the new aircraft at McConnell starting in 2016. It also will be investing $192 million in upgrades to the base.

McConnell was chosen over bases in North Dakota, Oklahoma and Spokane.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee called the Air Force’s decision “extremely unfortunate.”

“Fairchild Air Force Base has a strong tradition as an integral part of our national defense and is ideally located,” Inslee said in a statement.

Boeing is building the 767-based tanker, dubbed the KC-46A by the Air Force, in Everett.

U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., demanded a briefing with Air Force officials saying she has “plenty of questions on how they reached this conclusion.”

However, U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., was optimistic about Fairchild’s chances for future basing decisions.

“This is not a loss,” she said in a statement.

The decision announced Wednesday by the Air Force only affects the first installment of 36 tankers, McMorris Rodgers noted. Boeing is to supply the Air Force with 179 KC-46A tankers, leaving Spokane with additional chances in the future.

“Moving forward, Fairchild will compete very well,” she said.

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