Casey, Toomey: 171st Air Refueling Wing in Pittsburgh is a Finalist for New Aircraft

Casey, Toomey Push for Pentagon to Choose Pittsburgh Now One Step Closer

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Bob Casey (D-Pa.) and Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) announced that the Pentagon has included Pittsburgh’s 171st Air Refueling Wing on a list of five finalists to be the Air National Guard’s first main operating base for the new KC-46A tanker aircraft.

Becoming the home for these new aircraft could bolster the Pittsburgh base and help it remain a strong presence in the region. In the summer of 2012, Casey and Toomey urged the Pentagon to consider the 171st for these new aircraft.

“Becoming a finalist for these new aircraft is further vindication of the skilled workforce at the 171st,” Senator Casey said. “I’m hopeful that in the ultimate analysis, the 171st‘s reputation for efficiency and skill will prevail. I’m committed to working to push this across the finish line.”

“I commend the Air Force for its wise decision to include the Pittsburgh Air National Guard base on a short list of candidates to receive the new KC-46A tanker,” Sen. Toomey said. “Our national security would be well served by fielding this outstanding aircraft to an exceptional unit - Pittsburgh's 171st Air Refueling Wing. I strongly encourage the Air Force to designate the 171st as its top candidate to receive the new aircraft when that designation is made next spring.”

The full text of Casey and Toomey’s July letter is below:

July 30, 2012

The Honorable Michael B. Donley
United States Air Force

Dear Secretary Donley:

We are writing to strongly urge the Air Force to consider the 171st Air Refueling Wing (ARW) to become Main Operating Base 2 for KC-46A tanker aircraft and to conduct a site visit of the installation in the next few months.

We believe the 171st ARW is a tested and experienced installation that will score well in the criteria set forth by the Air Force in selecting sites to house the KC-46A tanker aircraft. Among them include:

  • Ideal Location and Local Partners: The 171st ARW has ample access to four major runways at the Pittsburgh Airport for very low cost. The airport supports the unit’s 24/7/365 operation and provides robust services which makes it one of the most reliable airports in the country for support of Air Force units. The Pittsburgh Airport Authority is also extremely supportive of the military and has committed to providing additional space for the 171st ARW as needed.
  • Proximity to Air Refueling (AR) tracks. Pittsburgh is strategically located in the Northeast near major U.S. cities, the national capital region, and the jumping off point for flight routes across the Atlantic Ocean. The 171st ARW is also within 30 minutes of 11 AR tracks, 60 minutes of 35 AR tracks, and 90 minutes of 51 AR tracks. If selected for this MOB 2 assignment, the proximity of the 171st ARW to these areas will enable the Air Force to maximize security, efficiencies and operational savings.
  • A Proven History of Service: The 171st ARW has operated for more than 50 years and has flown sixteen different aircraft in eight different missions. The 171st ARW was among the first units called to active duty after the 9/11 terrorist attacks and has greatly contributed to Homeland Security by providing continuous alert from its base (24/7/365) since that time. Over the past few years, the 171st ARW has supported many contingencies including Operation ENDURING FREEDOM, Operation IRAQI FREEDOM, Operation NOBLE EAGLE, and Operation ODYSSEY DAWN/ UNIFIED DAWN. The 171st has also deployed to Guam on multiple occasions to support the Pacific command and participated in the Hurricane Katrina relief effort.

When air operations over Libya began last year, the 171st ARW answered the call to service and deployed immediately to the Mediterranean. The personnel of the 171st ARW performed courageously over the Mediterranean by providing refueling support to U.S. and international forces. The people of Pittsburgh are proud of this service and are ready to serve once again.

We believe that a fair and equitable review of this unit, with its impeccable record, will show that the 171st ARW is an optimal choice for Main Operating Base 2 for KC-46A tanker aircraft. Thank you for your consideration of this issue and for your service to our country.


Bob Casey
United States Senator

Pat Toomey
United States Senator


Press Contact

Casey: 202-228-6367
Toomey: 202-224-0437