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Associated Press, Published January 10 2013

Grand Forks base might get air refueling tankers

GRAND FORKS — Grand Forks Air Force Base is one of four being considered to host an air refueling tanker mission.

The Air Force says it will base its new active-duty KC-46A tanker mission at either the North Dakota base, Altus Air Force Base in Oklahoma, Fairchild Air Force Base in Washington or McConnell Air Force Base in Kansas. It will announce its preferred base in the spring after conducting on-site surveys.

The Grand Forks making the final four shows the importance of the base to the nation's defense, members of North Dakota's congressional delegation said in a statement Wednesday.

"We are and we have been working hard to do all we can to push for Grand Forks' selection as one of the active-duty base locations, as well as a center for unmanned aerial systems," Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., said in a statement Wednesday. "Today's list of finalists moves us a step closer, and we will continue that effort."

Hoeven met with Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh in December to make the case for the Grand Forks base.

Starting in 2016, the base that is chosen will support active-duty KC-46A tankers. Other tankers will be based at an Air National Guard Base. The Air Guard base in Fargo is not a finalist.

The new tankers will replace aging KC-135 tankers and KC-10 tankers.

"The KC-46A will have enhanced refueling capacity and capabilities, improved efficiency, and increased capabilities for cargo and aeromedical evacuation as compared to the KC-135R, making it a vital component to maintaining our global reach for years to come," Welsh said in a statement.

The Grand Forks base hosted KC-135 tankers for 50 years before losing the mission during a round of military base closings and realignments. The last of those tankers left the base in 2010. The Grand Forks base is now home to an unmanned aircraft mission.

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.