Selfridge Air National Guard Base picked to host KC-46 squadron

by Tommy Grant

Michigan’s Selfridge Air National Guard Base could soon become the next home for the Air Force’s newest refueling jet.

The service announced Selfridge, located about 30 miles north of Detroit, as its preferred location for a dozen KC-46A Pegasus tankers Thursday pending the outcome of an environmental review, which is expected by 2025.

The tankers, slated to begin arriving in 2029, would replace the base’s aging fleet of eight KC-135 Stratotankers, which are scheduled to begin retiring in 2027.

Selfridge was among 16 locations vying for the tankers, the service told Air Force Times. The base, established in 1917, is home to the Michigan Air National Guard’s 127th Wing, comprised of the 171st Air Refueling Squadron and the 107th Fighter Squadron.

The decision comes after Michigan lawmakers sent a letter to the service Dec. 20, urging it to pick the base based on “its strong operational track record, exceptional personnel, and strategic location.” It also referred to a $100 million pledge from the state for runway and base improvements.

“We welcome this exciting news that will help to secure the future of Selfridge Air National Guard Base for decades to come,” a delegation of Michigan lawmakers said in a statement. “The twelve KC-46A refueling tankers – a larger unit than the eight KC-135s now at Selfridge – are next-generation aircraft that will strengthen American defense operations and capabilities for future threats, particularly as we prepare for potential conflicts in the Indo-Pacific.”

In its decision, the Air Force said the base also remains in the running for future fighter aircraft “or other potential missions in the future.” Michigan lawmakers have also been pressing the service for jets to replace the 107th Fighter Squadron’s fleet of A-10C Thunderbolt IIs, which are scheduled to begin retiring in 2026. The squadron, lawmakers noted, operates the state’s only remaining fighter jets.

The Air Force plans to buy 179 KC-46A tankers from Boeing under a $4.9 billion deal. The first KC-46A was delivered to McConnell Air Force Base, Kansas on Jan. 25, 2019, two years later than planned. Production and design problems have plagued the program and it remains off-limits for refueling the A-10 while engineers redesign a more flexible fuel pipe so it can properly connect to the attack plane.

Courtney Mabeus-Brown is the senior reporter at Air Force Times. She is an award-winning journalist who previously covered the military for Navy Times and The Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk, Va., where she first set foot on an aircraft carrier. Her work has also appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Foreign Policy and more.

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