You’ve probably heard chatter about the KC-46A Pegasus aircraft. One of the Kansas City District’s largest projects is to provide support to the warfighter and the latest incoming equipment at McConnell Air Force Base.
The KC-46A is an aerial refueling and strategic transport aircraft for the military. A new fleet of aircraft is scheduled to replace nearly 100 of the oldest KC-135E Stratotankers across the U.S., which have been in production since 1957.
A few years ago, the district’s Military Construction program faced a workload shortage. Following the Air Force’s announcement in early 2014 that McConnell Air Force Base, located in Wichita, Kan., would be the home of 36 new KC-46A tankers, the Corps beefed up in preparation for the nearly $250 million project. Corps staff at the McConnell project office surged from four to 20 personnel over the past two years. This program came just in time to fill the Military Construction gap, ultimately benefitting the district.
The Kansas City District is designing and overseeing construction for 17 projects at McConnell Air Force Base to support this new aircraft. In 2017, 36 planes will be delivered to McConnell Air Force Base and need housing and shelter for maintenance. The Corps is constructing three hangars, which equal the largest of all 17 project tasks.
The 1-Bay and 3-Bay hangars will be utilized for general aircraft maintenance while the 2-Bay will be utilized for corrosion and fuel cell support. All three hangars are on or ahead of schedule for completion before to the plane’s arrival in October 2017.
“We are on schedule to meet the aircraft delivery date,” said Ben Davis, project manager. “I am pleased with the progress this team has made. The program costs are well within budget, actually several million below the original programmed amount. This is a benefit to the Corps, the Air Force and the taxpayers.”
With so many large projects underway, it’s important to remember the reasoning behind them, which is to support the warfighter.
“It’s exciting to participate in major initiatives for our Services,” said Bryan Smith, chief of Military Programs. “The KC-46A is a new initiative for the Air Force as they update their fleet of planes. To be the agency to support this initiative, and to know your role in this massive program is to support the Airmen, that’s an incredible feeling. These are structures we don’t get to build every day. They are very cool and by all accounts, the projects are going very well.”
When supporting the warfighter, it’s important to take pride in the actions contributing to the success of the project.
“All projects are enjoyable. But to me, the hangars are the most fun to design and build,” said Davis. “The scale of what we are building is incredible. One building is so large it alone can cover a football field. The 2-Bay can move a million cubic feet of air per minute, which provides incredible ventilation while servicemen are painting the aircraft.”
Since McConnell is the first mobile operating base, it’s important to get the project done and done correctly.
“Since we are the first ones out of the gate on this new initiative, we have gone through some lessons learned. But those lessons are useful to not only our district, but the Corps of Engineers,” said Smith. “Our designs and construction could potentially provide a path forward for future projects.”
Ten mobile operating bases are currently in the planning phase and the Kansas City District is providing support by sharing lessons learned to help determine the five best potential candidate bases for the next mobile operating bases to potentially be built. The district’s team is ready and willing to support other Corps districts by creating and providing a best practices document to assist their efforts.
“We are already supporting the Tulsa District with Quality Assurance reviews on their deliverables for their current KC-46A project portfolio at Tinker and Altus Air Force bases located in Oklahoma,” said Smith.
Moreover, the district’s support to the Air Force doesn’t end at project completion.
“Following project turnovers, the district will continue to provide support to McConnell Air Force Base, with any KC-46A follow on contracts,” said Davis. “Knowing how to execute a beddown program to provide facilities for the mission is a great expertise for the Kansas City District and potential future beddown projects may follow as a result.”