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Updated Thursday, January 10, 2013 at 10:48 AM

Boeing's refueling tankers may go to Fairchild in Spokane

By Kyung M. Song
Seattle Times Washington bureau

WASHINGTON — Spokane's Fairchild Air Force Base could be in line to receive the first batch of Boeing's new refueling tankers after they begin rolling out of the company's Everett assembly plant.

Fairchild is one of four bases the Pentagon is considering as home for an initial fleet of 36 KC-46A tankers, members of Washington's congressional delegation said Wednesday. Fairchild already is home to about 30 of the older KC-135 tankers, which have been in service since the 1950s.

Other finalist sites are Altus Air Force Base in Oklahoma, Grand Forks Air Force Base in North Dakota and McConnell Air Force Base in Kansas. A preliminary decision is expected in April, with the final decision in 2014. First delivery of tankers is expected in 2017.

In 2011, Boeing won a decadelong battle against the parent company of Airbus for the $35 billion contract to build 179 of the next-generation tankers. They will be built at Boeing's widebody plant in Everett.

For the past year, members of the state's congressional delegation have worked to boost Fairchild's chances of accommodating the new tankers, including construction of a 14,000-foot runway.

"This is a big step in the right direction. Fairchild has been a historic part of our nation's aerial refueling effort and is well positioned to achieve global-level reach to the emerging Asia-Pacific Theater," Sen. Patty Murray said in a statement.

Sen. Maria Cantwell said the news marked a major step toward ensuring the Fairchild is the first home for the tankers.

"Fairchild offers strong infrastructure, experienced military personnel, and strategic proximity to 15 refueling routes and the Pacific that make it the right choice for America's strategic interests in the 21st century," she said in a statement.

Kyung Song: 202-383-6108 or ksong@seattletimes.com


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