Leaders break ground on KC-46A Tanker Sustainment Campus

TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. -- Air Force, state and city leaders officially broke ground July 26 on the new KC-46A Tanker Sustainment Campus during a ceremony at Tinker Air Force Base.

Lt. Gen. Lee Levy II, Air Force Sustainment Center commander, said the future 158-acre home of maintenance, repair and overhaul operations for the new aerial refueling tanker and its more than 1,300 estimated jobs carries extraordinary benefits for local communities and the state.

“I’m excited about the capabilities it brings to Oklahoma,” the commander said, “but I’m more excited about what it brings to our warfighters, to our Air Force, joint and coalition partners, and to the defense of our nation because, after all, that’s why we’re here.

“This is just the first in a number of military construction projects that over the course of time will deliver KC-46 capabilities to Tinker Air Force Base and for the Air Force Sustainment Center. It will bring a number of hangars, ramp infrastructure, software innovation labs and engine test facilities so when the KC-46 is fielded, your United States Air Force will have full capability to take care of that platform for the decades ahead.”

Contrack-Watts Garney JV will begin constructing the new sustainment campus next month on the south side of the base. The land, formerly owned by the Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railway Co., was purchased in Feb. 2015 through a joint effort of the U.S. Air Force ($8 million), the city of Oklahoma City ($23.5 million) and Oklahoma County ($12.5 million).

The Greater Oklahoma City Chamber led a coalition of local and state governments to support the land acquisition. Roy Williams, chamber president and CEO, said acquiring the KC-46 depot mission and the land was a long and complex project involving teamwork by chamber, city, county and state partners.

“We have long been, and will always continue to be, supportive to this base, to the Airmen, to the families and to the mission that this base represents,” Mr. Williams said. “This is just yet another example of where Oklahomans just don’t talk the talk, they walk the walk. They make these things happen.”

The new jobs created through the project will be enrolled in the Oklahoma Quality Jobs program. The program was created through legislation passed in 2014 to allow those incentive payments to go back to the city and county on a pro-rated basis to reimburse their investment in this job-producing infrastructure.

U.S. Rep. Tom Cole thanked Tinker-area community leaders for helping to make the project a reality.

“This is a big day for the Air Force, a big day for Tinker and a gigantic day for the people of Oklahoma, but a very, very good and important day for the United States of America, who will benefit for generations to come by the missions flown by this plane and the work done to keep it flying at this facility,” the congressman said.

The new KC-46A depot maintenance operation will be part of the Oklahoma City Air Logistics Complex. Brig. Gen. Mark Johnson, OC-ALC commander, said he’s excited to be on the ground floor of the next generation of tanker maintenance.

“This year we’re celebrating 60 years of KC-135 operations, and Tinker has been a part of it since the beginning,” General Johnson said. “We’re looking forward to being part of the KC-46A maintenance operations for the next 60 years. This campus will be enable us to grow our KC-46A work, while still maintaining the legacy systems we currently support.”

The KC-46A Pegasus is the first phase of a three-phase effort to replace the Air Force’s aging tanker fleet. It will be able to refuel any fixed-wing receiver capable aircraft on any mission and will provide refueling support to Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps aircraft, as well as aircraft from allied nations. The first KC-46A is slated to arrive at Tinker in 2018.

(John Parker, 72nd Air Base Wing Public Affairs staff writer, contributed to this article.)