Officials say a fleet of new refueling tankers headed for Travis Air Force Base near Fresno will not affect March Air Reserve Base’s prospects of adding such planes to its current complement of tankers.
March has 14 KC-135 tankers assigned to its base. The planes were built in the early 1960s. They are being replaced by a new generation tanker, the KC-46A Pegasus. The planes are currently in production, with 179 expected to be rolled out in the next 15 years.
Competition for the new planes has been stiff. March missed getting any of the planes in the first round of allocations for reserve bases in 2015. It’s hoping to make the list in the next round.
Base supporters believe that if March were to secure some of the new tankers, it could protect the base from possible military downsizing in the future.
On Thursday, the Air Force announced that Travis and McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, in New Jersey, would get 24 of the tankers, the first arriving in 2020. Exactly how the 24 will be split between the two bases is unclear.
Brig. Gen. Russell Muncy, March’s commander, said he didn’t think the proximity of Travis would hurt March’s chances of acquiring the new tanker.
“The decision should not impact any future decision,” said base spokeswoman Linda Wells, relaying a statement from Muncy.
State Sen. Richard Roth, D-Riverside, a retired Air Force major general, said since the Air Force is assessing active and reserve bases separately – Travis is an active base – March still has a good chance of getting the new plane.
“Travis has had tankers probably for as long as March Field has had tankers,” Roth said. “I don’t anticipate that this active-duty bed-down will have any impact on March. We view this as a win-win for the state of California,” he said of the Travis allocation. “Next we push for March.”
Rep. Mark Takano, D-Riverside, said that while Travis’ acquisition won’t hurt the Inland base, Thursday’s announcement does “highlight the need for us expand March’s capacity and modernize its infrastructure so it can continue to be a competitive option for future projects.
“The investments we make in March today will ensure it maintains its critical role in supporting our national defense for years to come,” he said.
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