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134th Air Refueling Wing opens $31 million hangar, vies for next-gen tanker

  • Published
  • By Capt. Jon LaDue
  • 134th Air Refueling Wing

MCGHEE TYSON AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Tenn. -- Tennessee National Guard and 134th Air Refueling Wing leaders officially opened a new $31 million hangar during a ceremonious ribbon cutting event here June 3. 

The ceremony was held in the bay of the 57,400 square-foot hangar alongside a KC-46 Pegasus that landed here in conjunction with a training mission. The Pegasus served as a fitting complement to the ceremony as the 134th ARW continues to contend for the next-generation in-flight refueler as a replacement for the units’ aging KC-135 Stratotankers.

“Today marks the culmination of at least 33 years of planning and a decade of focused effort—it’s a major milestone in the life of the 134th Air Refueling Wing,” said Col. Lee Hartley, 134th ARW commander.

Construction began on the hangar in the fall of 2019 and the project is the largest in base history. The new hangar augments two other hangars on base built in the early 1950s.

McGhee Tyson’s newest hangar boasts a 28,000 square-foot hangar bay, a 4,600 square-foot corrosion control section, a 5,400 square-foot avionics shop, and a 19,400 square-foot section for maintenance and general-purpose shops. Housing these components together in one hangar will help the 134th Maintenance Group achieve increased efficiency to meet the challenge of keeping the Wing’s legacy aircraft, the KC-135, combat ready each and every day.

The new hangar also represents a $31 million strategic investment in the base and in the community, and is part of $110 million in base developments over the last decade. The new hangar bookends a 2018 hangar renovation project on base and McGhee Tyson Airport’s $131 million runway project completed in 2021.

According to Hartley, the Air Force plans to buy a total of 179 KC-46 aircraft and all but 16 of them are already spoken for—resulting in more than a dozen other KC-135 units in the ANG competing for the next-gen tanker. The Air Force is expected to announce the basing decisions for the Pegasus in the next year.

Despite the units’ squadron of KC-135s being 62 years old on average, the 134th ARW is consistently recognized as one of the top in-flight refueling units among Air National Guard KC-135 bases. From 2013 to 2020, the 134th conducted more than 2,400 combat sorties encompassing nearly 16,000 combat flying hours across the globe. The 134th ARW is a 16-time recipient of the Air Force Outstanding Unit Award and has been recognized twice in the last five years as the best ANG KC-135 wing by the Airlift/Tanker Association.

Hartley, an Air Force Academy graduate and command pilot with nearly 7,000 military and civilian flying hours, does not hesitate to boast about the Airmen of the 134th Air Refueling Wing, the modernization of the base’s infrastructure, and the unit’s readiness to be the premier in-flight refueling wing of the future.

“McGhee Tyson is the right place, with the right people, at the right cost,” he said. “Simply put, McGhee Tyson is the right choice for the Air National Guard and the Air Force for the KC-46.”

Visit 134arw.ang.af.mil/kc-46 to learn more about the 134th Air Refueling Wing’s capability to host the KC-46 Pegasus.