Casey, Toomey Push for 171st To Be Named A New Main Operating Base for Tanker Aircraft

Senator Casey Has Pushed for New Military Asset In Conversations With Top Military Officials Having KC-46A At 171st Would Bolster Installation

Washington DC- Today, U.S. Senators Bob Casey (D-PA) and Pat Toomey (R-PA) announced that they have sent a letter to U.S. Air Force Secretary, Michael Donley, urging him to choose the Pennsylvania Air National Guard 171st Air Refueling Wing as a Main Operating Base for the KC-46A Tanker Aircraft. Senator Casey has pushed for the installation to be chosen in conversations with top military officials. Having the KC-46A make its home at the 171st would bolster the base and reinforce its role as a major part of U.S. national defense. In January, the Pentagon announced that the 171st was on a list of five finalists to be the Air National Guard’s first main operating base for the new KC-46A tanker aircraft.

“The 171st’s long reputation for excellence and highly skilled workforce makes it an ideal local for these tanker aircrafts,” Senator Casey said. “I’ve had positive conversations with top officials at the Pentagon on the 171st and I’m hopeful that the Air Force will select our region’s base as a Main Operating Base.”

Senator Toomey said: The 171st is already a premier tanker unit for the Air Force, and we are proud that its elite crews and support personnel are based in southwest Pennsylvania.  It is only fitting that the unit receive the newest and best aircraft – the KC-46A tanker -- enabling it to provide state of the art air refueling support to Air Force units worldwide.

I appreciate Sen. Casey’s efforts and our partnership with the Military Affairs Council of Western Pennsylvania in highlighting  the cost effectiveness and strategic value of expanding the mission capability of these great Pennsylvania patriots and their unit.

The full text of Casey and Toomey’s letter can be seen below:

The Honorable Michael B. Donley


United States Air Force

1670 Air Force Pentagon

Washington, D.C. 20339-1670

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. We were pleased that the Air Force had an opportunity to perform a site survey and witness the strengths and capabilities of the 171st

We believe the Pittsburgh Air National Guard Base is a tested and experienced installation that excels in the site selection criteria set forth by the Air Force including:

  • 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 very 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 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.

In addition to meeting these criteria, we understand that the site survey team found that the airport is ideal for KC-46A operations with minimal infrastructure costs.  Moreover, the people of Pittsburgh will eagerly support the additional active duty members who would base in the surrounding area, as they have done for many years.  We believe that a fair and equitable review of this unit, with its impeccable record, will show that the 171st ARW is the optimal choice for the National Guard’s Main Operating Base of the KC-46A tanker aircraft. Thank you for your consideration of this issue and for your service to our country.


Robert P. Casey, Jr.                                        Pat Toomey

United States Senator                                     United States Senator

Press Contact

April Mellody (Casey) 202-228-6367
E.R. Anderson (Toomey) 202-224-8609