As the Air Force continues its strategic basing process for the KC-46A, its next generation tanker, it should consider the benefits derived from selecting locations outside the continental United States, according to language in the joint explanatory statement accompanying the conference report to the fiscal 2019 defense authorization bill. Those locations would need to support day-to-day air refueling operations, operations of the combatant commands and flexibility for contingency operations, the conferees wrote.
Candidate sites should have “a strategic location that is essential to the defense of the United States and its interests, receivers for boom or probe-and-drogue training opportunities with joint and international partners, and sufficient airfield and airspace availability and capacity to meet requirements.” Candidates also should take advantage of existing infrastructure, and minimize overall construction and operational costs, according to the explanatory statement.
The House and Senate versions of the authorization bill each included almost identical language in the form of a “sense of Congress” regarding basing for the tanker aircraft, but the conferees opted to strip it out of the text of the legislation and include it in the explanatory statement. President Trump signed the annual policy bill into law last Monday.
Separately, the conferees opted to remove a sense of Congress from the Senate version of the authorization bill regarding emerging construction requirements for the bed-down of the KC-46A. Instead, they included language in the joint explanatory statement noting that additional military construction and facilities, sustainment, restoration and modernization (FRSM) funding is likely to be necessary to support the fielding of the aircraft, house additional personnel and meet unforeseen requirements of the tanker mission as the KC-46A program matures and requirements become better defined.
They called for the Air Force secretary to “continue to review and validate new emergent requirements and prepare to provide additional military construction and FRSM funding in its budget request for fiscal year 2020 and future years as needed.”
Air Force photo by Louis Briscese