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Redesigned Refueling Aircraft Could Find New Home In Pittsburgh

The U.S. Air Force is looking to land new refueling planes at a new home beginning in 2016, and they may look no farther than Pittsburgh's 171st Air Refueling Wing. The first aircraft delivery to the Air National Guard unit that is selected for the redesigned planes will be in 2017.

In a letter to the Secretary of the Air Force, Representative Mark Critz (D-PA-12) noted the large amount of activity at the base, located near Pittsburgh International Airport, and how it would benefit the new KC-46A refueling aircraft.

"The Air Force has been at an up-tempo since the early 90s, and the 171st is a unit that has not only been deployed almost consistently in that near 20-year period, but when the need arises, they volunteer," Critz said.

He said the city would be an ideal location for the new refueling aircraft for several reasons. "That's what my letter is highlighting, is all the positives that we have in Pittsburgh and the cost effectiveness of it, but most importantly because this is really where the rubber meets the road. It's about the level of service," Critz said.

The Air Force reportedly will announce the candidates for the base sometime later this summer, while preferred and reasonable alternatives will be announced in spring 2013. The final base decision will come in spring 2014.

Critz said he plans on continuing to push for the new base in the upcoming months. "It's about making sure that we pay attention and we keep track of all the details — that we put the Air Force on notice, we just keep tabs, and we keep moving forward," Critz said.

Critz also said the pending future of the 911th Airlift Wing will have no effect on the Air Force's decision to house the planes at the 171st Refueling Wing. The 911th wing will remain open another year as part of the FY13 Department of Defense Appropriations Act.