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Air National Guard unit in Moon on list of candidates for new tanker plane

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Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2013, 7:28 p.m.
 

The Pennsylvania Air National Guard's 171st Air Refueling Wing in Findlay is in the running to become a base for the new KC-46A tanker, the Air Force said Wednesday.

“It's great news for the 171st to even be considered as a possibility,” said a base spokeswoman, Capt. Dicie Hritz.

She declined further comment, noting base leaders had not reviewed details of the competition for the new tanker, which will be able to carry more fuel and cargo than its predecessor, the KC-135. The 171st is home to 16 of the 1950s-era KC-135s.

The Air Force said in a news release that it plans to establish two operating bases for the KC-46A, one run by the active-duty Air Force and one by the Air National Guard. It also will set up a training base.

The 171st is one of five Air National Guard bases competing to become the guard's lone KC-46A operating base.

Military officials plan to tour all candidate facilities, then develop cost estimates for basing the new planes at each of the locations. The Air Force plans to announce its preferred locations, along with possible alternatives, this spring.

The chosen training base and active-duty Air Force base will begin receiving the new tankers during the 2016 fiscal year, while the Air National Guard base that is chosen will start getting them in the 2018 fiscal year, the Air Force said. It did not say how many tankers each base would receive.

Sens. Bob Casey, D-Scranton, and Pat Toomey, R-Lehigh Valley, lauded the Air Force for including the 171st in the study.

“Becoming a finalist for these new aircraft is further vindication of the skilled workforce at the 171st,” Casey said. Added Toomey, “Our national security would be well-served by fielding this outstanding aircraft to an exceptional unit — Pittsburgh's 171st Air Refueling Wing.”

“Having the 171st Air National Guard in the running for new refueling tankers ... is a positive development for our region and a testament to the strong work of our local guardsmen,” said U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy, R-Upper St. Clair.

A military cost-cutting plan announced last year could result in closure of that base. A decision could be made as early as March.

Tom Fontaine is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7847 or tfontaine@tribweb.com.

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