WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) and Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), along with U.S. Representative Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.), responded to an annual weapons report released Wednesday by the U.S. Department of Defense that claims Boeing Co. and the U.S. Air Force need additional time to complete KC-46A development testing and initial training before operational testing can get underway. This report does not impact the U.S. Air Force’s selection of McConnell Air Force Base (AFB) in Wichita as the Main Operating Base (MOB) #1 for replacing KC-135R tanker aircraft with KC-46As.
“I was concerned to hear about the U.S. Defense Department report that alleges a testing delay in the KC-46A,” Sen. Moran said. “The good news is Congress and the Air Force have made McConnell a priority by including this project’s military construction in the Omnibus appropriations bill. I have inquired about the report’s findings and will continue to work with Air Force leadership to make certain the KC-46A arrives in Wichita as soon as possible.”
“McConnell Air Force base is the largest tanker base in the world, and the delivery of the new KC-46A’s will ensure that tradition continues,” Sen. Roberts said. “While I am concerned by reports of a delay, I am confident that the Air Force’s commitment to Wichita and McConnell will not waiver. The new tanker mission means our airmen and airwomen at McConnell will continue to play a vital role in our national defense and will continue to enrich Wichita and the rest of the state. I look forward to seeing the new planes on the tarmac.”
“McConnell is integral to the safety and security of our forces around the world, and a cherished part of the Wichita community,” Rep. Pompeo said. “As key stakeholders in this program’s success, we’re working closely with the Air Force to make sure the tankers reach their new home. As this delay is only temporary, I’m confident that all the work done by our airmen and Friends of McConnell to bring these tankers to Wichita will pay off.”
The Air Force responded optimistically to questions over whether or not the tankers remain on schedule. An Air Force spokesman released a statement saying, “The KC-46 development test program is aggressive but achievable. The full time period reserved for Initial Operational Test and Evaluation (IOT&E) remains intact. All Integrated Test Team (ITT) members are working toward the planned IOT&E start date in May 2016. Schedule risk mitigations, such as MOAs with outside agencies and leveraging Boeing commercial test resources, are in place. Integrated test plans will optimize the flight test program in such a manner that each flight will maximize the use of the data collected to address Boeing, the FAA, Development Test, and where it makes sense, the Operational Test requirements. This ‘Test Once’ concept allows the possibility of multiple agencies’ unique requirements being accomplished with each event. In addition, the team is working closely with Boeing to ensure flight test plan development addresses receiver certification needs. The KC-46 Program Office 2013 Schedule Risk Assessment indicated that Boeing has a greater than 90% probability of meeting their contractual Required Assets Available (18 aircraft and associated support delivered) date of August 2017.”
As the largest air tanker base in the world, McConnell Air Force Base is a key stakeholder in the Wichita community. The base has been the recipient of numerous awards since its beginning in 1941, and received more awards over the past 16 months than all other Air Mobility bases combined. McConnell supports more than 17,000 people, military and civilian, and has an economic impact of $619 million. It assists all branches of the military and allied partners, refueling off of either coast and around the world every day.
In addition to meeting with General Welsh to convey Kansas’ long-standing history of service and support to air power, in June 2012, Sens. Moran and Roberts and Rep. Pompeo sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley to encourage the selection of McConnell AFB as the first MOB #1 for the KC-46A tanker. During the meeting, the delegation emphasized the importance of the tankers being based at our country’s first-rate tanker facility in the country – McConnell.
As part of the selection process, the Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce and the Wichita Independent Business Association teamed up to form a coalition, the Tanker Task Force, to help demonstrate that the business community is behind McConnell. Last month, the Air Force hosted an event on KC-46A basing selection that boasted more than 300 area residents showing their support for the base.
Additionally, on Dec. 5, 2013, the Kansas Delegation sent a letter to Air Force Civil Engineer Center Director Joe Sciabica to show their support during the Environmental Impact Study.