Senators John Hoeven and Heidi Heitkamp and Congressman Kevin Cramer today announced that the U.S. Air Force has selected Grand Forks Air Force Base as one of four finalists on the active duty base list to receive the KC-46A aerial refueling tanker mission. In addition to the active duty base list, the Air Force released lists for finalists in the National Guard and training base lists.
The other bases on the active duty base list are Altus Air Force Base in Oklahoma; McConnell Air Force Base in Kansas; and Fairchild Air Force Base in Washington state.
Altus and McConnell are also finalists for the training base. Forbes Air Guard Station in Kansas, Joint Base McGuire-Dix in New Jersey, Pease Air Guard Station in New Hampshire, Pittsburgh Air Guard Station in Pennsylvania, and Rickenbacker Air Guard Station in Ohio are finalists for the Air Guard base.
"We are and we have been working hard to do all we can to push for Grand Forks' selection as one of the active duty base locations, as well as a center for Unmanned Aerial Systems," Hoeven said. "Today's list of finalists moves us a step closer, and we will continue that effort."
"Today's news is a testament to the quality of North Dakota's service members and community." said Heitkamp. "As the Air Force continues in this competitive process, I intend to work hand in hand with Senator Hoeven, Congressman Cramer and the Grand Forks Base and community to ensure the Air Force knows that Grand Forks is the best base to deploy the KC-46A."
"I am pleased to hear Grand Forks Air Force base was selected as one of four potential active duty bases to serve as the permanent site for the new KC-46A aerial refueling tanker," Cramer said. "Although the decision will not be made until May of 2013, the base has long served as a vital component of our national defense and symbolizes the importance of North Dakota's assistance to the United States Military."
Today's announcement follows several meetings Hoeven has held with Air Force officials to push for the selection, including a December meeting with new Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh where Hoeven again made the case for Grand Forks to receive the KC-46A. The senator emphasized Grand Forks Air Force Base's outstanding infrastructure and previous experience with the KC-135 refueling tanker.
The Air Force used a strict set of criteria to compile a list of candidate bases best positioned to serve as permanent sites for the new KC-46A aerial refueling tanker. The review process resulted in today's list of finalists. The Air Force will now further review the list of finalists before announcing in May 2013 which three bases will first receive the tanker mission. The Air Force will identify other KC-46A bases when it takes delivery of additional KC-46A aircraft under its current tanker contract.
Hoeven serves as a member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction and Veterans Affairs.