The U.S. Air Force has scheduled numerous public hearings across the country for the public to comment on a draft Environmental Impact Statement regarding the rollout of its new KC-46A fleet.
One of those is coming to Spokane, due to Fairchild Air Force Base being chosen as an alternative location for the main operating base. Earlier this year, McConnell Air Force Base in Kansas narrowly beat the West Plains base in the running to station the first set of new aircraft. Fairchild's public hearing will take place Wednesday, Nov. 20 beginning at 5:30 p.m., at The Lincoln Center ballroom in Spokane.
During the presentation, the Air Force will describe the proposed action and alternatives, the purpose and reasoning behind the proposed KC-46A Formal Training Unit and First Main Operating Base (MOB 1) beddown, the National Environmental Policy Act process, and summarize the Draft Environmental Impact Statement findings. The public comment period will then begin; oral public comments will be transcribed by a court reporter, according to a Fairchild press release.
"The MOB 1 will consist of 36 KC-46A aircraft with a mission to provide worldwide refueling, cargo, or aeromedical evacuation support," a Fairchild press release reads. "The KC-46A mission could be an additive or replacement mission depending on where the aircraft is located."
Aircraft are scheduled to begin arriving at the preferred bases of McConnell and Oklahoma's Altus Air Force Base in 2016. By 2019, the main operating base's mission will have 36 aircraft running in three operational squadrons, according to the EIS' executive summary.
Among the projects that would have taken place if Fairchild won the bid included over 188,000 square feet of demolition, over 2 million square feet of renovation, 1.6 million square feet of new construction and 32,500 square feet of additions or alterations. Altogether, approximately $292 million would have been allocated for construction at the base.
It's estimated that at McConnell, construction costs for the main operating base would be around $260 million, generating over 3,400 jobs.
Fairchild's population would have increased by 1,095 people, including 417 full-time military personnel and 678 dependents of military personnel.
According to the executive summary, having Fairchild as the main operating base would have increased Spokane County's population by 1,095 people, and a total 0.2 percent increase when factoring in the drawdown for the KC-135 fleet. Approximately 438 jobs would have been opened for the work force, with around 300 indirect and induced jobs within the area.
The KC-46A aircraft is meant to replace an aging number of KC-135 tankers, used for refueling missions across the globe. The new planes have additional refueling capacity, and improved efficiency across the board, and will handle aerial refueling support to Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps and allied nation coalition force aircraft.
That replacement process began in 2006, when an Air Force analysis determined the best way to replace the aging KC-135 fleet was through a commercial derivative replacement tanker. The KC-46A is the first part of a three-phase replacement project to ensure the KC-135s continue to retain their value while the transition takes place.
Hard copies of the draft EIS are available from the Fairchild Library or from the Spokane Public Library at 906 W. Main Ave. in Spokane. It can be accessed and downloaded online at www.KC-46A-beddown.com. Comments can also be submitted online via the website.
James Eik can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.