101st Air Refueling Wing hopes to bring KC-46 to Maine

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Jeffrey Roosevelt
  • Maine National Guard

The Maine Air National Guard’s 101st Air Refueling Wing in Bangor is one of about 15 Air National Guard Wings seeking the new Boeing KC-46 Pegasus air refueling tankers. The wing is actively promoting its case to be one of two Air National Guard units selected for a fleet of eight new aircraft. Area officials participated in a press conference at the 101st ARW on Jan. 4, 2022, to announce support of the plans to pursue the new airframe.

“The KC-46 is a very versatile platform that’s obviously many years improved over the Eisenhower-era tankers that we’re flying now,” said Col. Ian Gillis, commander of the 101st ARW. “It has the ability to air refuel itself, which means that it can carry more gas across the Atlantic; it can also support both the NATO and U.S. fighters on the same mission, which our current tankers can’t do.”

The 101st ARW currently maintains a fleet of KC-135 Stratotankers that were originally constructed more than 60 years ago to support air-to-air refueling operations spanning the globe. Many of the airframes are older than the mandatory retirement age for those serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.

“From our strategic location here in Maine, the KC-46 represents a significant upgrade in our operational capabilities that would enable us to provide increased support to the defense of the nation for years to come,” said Gillis.

“Our MAINEiacs of the 101st Air Refueling Wing have excelled at supporting operations across the world since the airframe first arrived in Bangor in 1976, and they will continue to excel regardless of the airframe,” said Maine’s Adjutant General and former commander of the 101st ARW, Maj. Gen. Douglas Farnham, following the press conference, “However, having the KC-46 airframe in Bangor provides a number of benefits from a global strategic perspective based on our geographic location.”

Officials from Bangor International Airport and the Bangor City Council provided additional comments of the pursuit of the KC-46 in Bangor. The initiative was presented to both groups in December and was met with a warm reception.

“Other bases may claim to have strong relations with their city or airport counterparts, but none stand in comparison to the partnership between 101st and the airport and the city,” said Tony Caruso, director of the Bangor International Airport.

“This is the type of investment within the community that will help Bangor grow in the future,” said Rick Fournier, chairman of the Bangor City Council.

It is anticipated that, if selected, the new aircraft would bring a component of up to 200 active duty Air Force airmen to the area. Gillis says some of the factors in the selection criteria of wing selections may be cost of living, housing, and access to medical facilities and that the locations could be identified as soon as next fall with the KC-46 aircraft arriving in 2027.

“We will continue to be a premier air refueling wing for the Air Force even if we are not selected for the KC-46 mission,” said Gillis. “Our success isn’t a result of what equipment we have, success is achieved when we work to uphold the rich MAINEiac traditions of excellence, teamwork and commitment.”