FAIRFIELD — Nothing but support was voiced Tuesday night during a public hearing on possible environmental impacts of basing KC-46A air tankers at Travis Air Force Base. Speakers pointed out that the local community has already tackled and dealt with land use and noise mitigation issues that could have gotten in the way of basing the air tanker here. “We can handle anything you can throw at us,” Travis Regional Armed Forces Committee member Mike Reagan said about successfully bedding down the aircraft and associated personnel at Travis.
Retired Air Force officer John Foster said that housing won’t be an issue for military members and their families because “we will do whatever it takes to find them that housing. ”Foster pointed out that the base already has programs in place to work with local communities to house Travis military members. “The mission is there for air refueling,” Foster said of the base’s capacity and its better location than more inland bases. The KC-46A is the first phase of an effort to replace an aging tanker fleet with more refueling capacity and enhanced capabilities, improved efficiency and increased capabilities for cargo and aeromedical evacuation.
Travis is one of two preferred alternatives for basing either 36 or 24 KC-46As, depending on the Air Force’s decision to be made some time this summer.
Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey, is the other preferred alternative, which would either take the mission or share it with Travis, according to the draft Environmental Impact Statement. Two other alternative locations are Fairchild Air Force Base, Washington, and Grand Forks Air Force Base, North Dakota.
If Travis gets either 36 or 24 KC-46s, the base would see its present 24 KC-10s depart. The base population would either increase by 1,540 people or 233 people depending on how many KC-46As arrive. The only likely adverse environmental impact would on the California tiger salamanders that call part of the base home, but Duane Kromm said land use agreements would mitigate such an impact.
No opponents spoke out against basing the KC-46s and local supporters were confident about Travis’ chances to land the KC-46A. The KC-46 program is expected to produce 179 new aircraft to replace the older KC-135 tanker fleet with production ending in 2028. If Travis gets its aircraft, the first aircraft could arrive in 2023 with construction work to prepare the base for them starting two years earlier.