TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE — Travis Air Force Base took its first big step to get ready for the KC-46 Pegasus air tanker Friday amid much praise for those who lobbied to get the aircraft here.
Travis, federal, state and community leaders took part in a ceremony to break ground to start construction of a $107 million hangar for the KC-46 Pegasus air tankers, which will start calling Travis home in 2023.
“This is an important first step in getting the KC-46,” said Len Augustine, chairman of the Travis Community Consortium, the group that lobbied hard to ensure the air tanker would be based here.
The base had to bring in the dirt to be turned in a box because the site for the new hangar was located on the concrete-covered flight line next to Hangar P-16.
Hangar P-16 and two nearby smaller buildings are slated to be demolished in spring 2019 to make way for the 174,300-square-foot, three-bay new hangar and repair facility.
The new hangar is just the big-ticket item in an estimated $175 million list of construction, repair and modernization projects designed to get Travis ready for the KC-46s.
Those other projects located around the flight line range from a new hydrant system and taxi apron repairs to a fuel cell hangar.
Rep. John Garamendi, one of the dignitaries to to attend the event, reiterated his support for the base, calling it critical to the nation’s defense. He also said air mobility is “absolutely essential” and that the KC-46 will help meet the military’s need for more air refueling capability.
Maj. Gen. Sam Barrett, 18th Air Force commander, called the KC-46 the “signature platform” that will serve the Air Force’s and Air Mobility Command’s strategic needs for years to come.
Fellow speaker, 4th Air Force commander Maj. Gen. Randall Ogden, lauded the community support for getting the aircraft here, saying “no one does it better.”
Col. Jeff Nelson, 60th Air Mobility Wing commander, said the KC-46 with its superior capability will be critical to helping Travis carry out its global reach mission. He said that the upcoming construction work will ensure Travis will be ready to support the KC-46 when it arrives.
The first of the 24 KC-46s are tentatively expected to arrive in January 2023, with the last one arriving in September 2024. As each KC-46 arrives, one of Travis’ KC-10 Extenders is expected to depart.
It is also expected that the base’s workforce will increase by 96 personnel, which equates to 137 additional military dependents.
The Air Force is projected to receive 179 KC-46s between now and 2028.
The KC-46A has significant refueling capacity, enhanced air refueling capabilities, improved efficiency and increased aeromedical evacuation capabilities, Travis leaders said.
The Air Force won’t start divesting itself of the older KC-10 Extender, which was added to the fleet in 1980, until the tanker force reaches 479 tankers.
McConnell Air Force Base, Kansas, is expected to be the first base get its first KC-46 by the end of
this month after two years of delays. It has seen $267 million spent on 16 construction projects to get that base ready.
McConnell was originally supposed to get the first aircraft in March 2017, but the manufacturer, Boeing, experienced problems with some of the aircraft’s new features.