Fairchild AFB crews to leave Kyrgyzstan

SPOKANE — The Defense Department said it will pull its personnel from a base in Kyrgyzstan, where crews from Fairchild Air Force Base in Spokane have flown thousands of combat refueling missions over Afghanistan.

The agency said Monday it will vacate Manas Transit Center by July rather than negotiate a lease extension. The move follows a vote by Kyrgyzstan’s parliament to end the lease when the current term expires next summer.

The center serves as a base for aerial refueling missions and as a northern air supply route into Afghanistan for troops and equipment, The Spokesman-Review reported.

Refueling operations will be moved to an unspecified base in southwest Asia, said Cmdr. Elissa Smith, a Defense Department spokeswoman.

It wasn’t immediately clear what impact the decision could have on Fairchild Air Force Base operations. A base spokesman referred questions to Air Force Central Command.

Over the past decade, Kyrgyzstan has been the most common overseas deployment for Fairchild crews, including members of the 141st Washington Air National Guard unit that share KC-135 Stratotankers with the 92nd Air Refueling Wing.

The U.S. military base in Afghanistan, located alongside a commercial airport outside the capital city of Bishkek, has been a politically divisive issue in Kyrgyzstan, pitting pro-democracy reformers against pro-Moscow hard-liners.

The parliament sent the United States an eviction notice in 2009 but relented when the Pentagon agreed to more than triple the annual lease rate to $60 million through July 2014, plus spend $31 million on airport runway and tarmac improvements.

Earlier this year, three Fairchild crew members died when their KC-135 exploded above a rugged mountain range about 100 miles west of the base. The cause remains under investigation, but authorities have said the tanker was flying into a lightning storm.

More in Local News

Departing mayor’s locally drawn portrait joins city’s pantheon

Artist Elizabeth Person’s portrait of Everett Mayor Ray Stephanson will hang with others at City Hall.

Inslee proposes tapping reserves, carbon tax in budget plan

The proposal also includes money for the mental health system and efforts to fight opioid addiction.

One dead in crash south of Granite Falls

Two cars collided near the intersection of N. Lake Roesiger Road and Hidden Valley Road.

2 women struck, injured while crossing busy roads

The first happened Wednesday night in Everett. The second was Thursday morning in Edmonds.

Lynnwood robbery leads to lockdown at Edmonds schools

Edmonds police said it was just a precaution as they search around Edmonds-Woodway High School.

Marysville 7-Eleven hit by armed robbers

Officers set up a perimeter and brought in a police dog, but the man couldn’t be found.

Snohomish man, 63, missing from home since Monday

He left without his keys, wallet and phone, saying something about going to “the river.”

Counties fed up with unfunded mandates may sue the state

For example, no money has been provided to install, maintain and clear out required ballot boxes.

Inslee budget solves school funding puzzle with piece of carbon

His plan commits to putting another $950 million into the system.

Most Read