Alaska Congressional Delegation Welcomes Decision to Add New KC-135 Tankers for Eielson

WASHINGTON—U.S. Senators Dan Sullivan and Lisa Murkowski, and Congressman Don Young, all R-Alaska, today sent a letter to Acting Secretary of the Air Force John Roth and Air Force Chief of Staff General Charles Q. Brown, Jr. welcoming an announcement by the Air Force that four KC-135 refueling tanker aircraft will be added to the existing squadron at Eielson Air Force Base. The plan adds an active duty component to the unit, bringing the squadron’s total KC-135s to 12, and will also bring up to 220 additional active duty personnel to Eielson. The new personnel will be in addition to the roughly 1,300 military members, not including their families, coming to Eielson for the bed-down of the F-35s.

“I commend the leadership of the Air Force for this wise allocation of forces, and I look forward to joining Interior Alaskans in welcoming these airmen, technicians and their families to our great state. These 220 active duty personnel and their families, combined with the incoming 3,000 personnel and their families for the F-35s, will bring a strong and sustained economic boost to Interior communities at a time when we need it,” said Senator Sullivan. “The Air Force’s 2020 Arctic strategy clearly recognized the geostrategic location of Alaska, and articulated the need for increased air power in the Arctic to protect American interests and address the aggressive expansion by Russia in this crucial region. Growing the KC-135 squadron at Eielson signals that the Air Force fully acknowledges the need to meet those objectives and close the aerial refueling gap that exists in our state. With more than 100 fifth-generation fighter aircraft soon to be based in Alaska, these KC-135 aircraft—and the potential for next generation tankers, like the KC-46—are necessary for sustaining the hub of air combat power. Further, this added capability enhances our nation’s ability to surge F-22 and F-35 aircraft forward to the Indo-Pacific and Europe in a crisis or conflict, bolstering the credible deterrent America presents to our great power competitors—China and Russia.”

“I welcome the U.S. Air Force’s announcement that they will base four additional KC-135 Stratotankers at Eielson Air Force Base. Eielson serves as a critical launch point for America’s projection of power from Alaska, into the Arctic, Europe, and the entire Indo-Pacific region. I commend the Air Force for recognizing Eielson—and Alaska’s—geostrategic importance. These additional assets will play a significant role supporting the largest concentration of fifth generation aircraft in the world as our military continues to focus on the Indo-Pacific and sharpens its focus on the Arctic,” said Senator Murkowski. “This move will also improve access to unparalleled training opportunities at the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex at Eielson, which provides real-world preparation that is invaluable for our military personnel. I remain committed to supporting the Air Force’s regional mission of deterrence, vigilance, and defense and will continue to push for further improvements to America’s posture in the Arctic.”

“Alaska is a critical strategic location, and our state's profile will only grow larger as the Arctic continues to evolve,” said Congressman Young. “The arrival of KC-135s underscores our state's importance in Arctic policy and will bring increased refueling capacity at a crucial time. As the Air Force has made clear, the Arctic truly is a cornerstone in our nation's defense. As the region changes, we must continue to outperform adversaries like Russia and China; four new KC-135s are yet another tool we can use to project American leadership in the Arctic. I want to thank Acting Secretary John Roth and Air Force Chief of Staff General Charles Q. Brown, Jr for working with the Alaska Delegation, and recognizing the importance of a safe, free, and navigable Arctic.”

According to the Air Force, the first KC-135 aircraft is scheduled to arrive in fiscal year 2023, pending the outcome of the required environmental impact analysis.

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