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Associated Press, Published May 23 2013

ND officials still hopeful base can get tankers

GRAND FORKS — North Dakota's governor and congressional delegation say they will continue to push for a new air refueling tanker mission at Grand Forks Air Force Base.

The Air Force on Wednesday chose McConnell Air Force Base in Kansas as the main operating site for the new KC-46A tanker, which is replacing the aging KC-135 fleet that's been flown for nearly six decades. The military will base 36 of the new aircraft at McConnell starting in 2016.

The Kansas base beat out three others, including Grand Forks and bases in Oklahoma and Washington.

The Grand Forks base once had a KC-135 tanker mission, but lost it — and about half of the base's population — during the last round of military base closings, in 2005, and now supports unmanned aircraft.

Gov. Jack Dalrymple, Sens. John Hoeven and Heidi Heitkamp and Rep. Kevin Cramer said in a statement that the North Dakota base could still get new tankers in the future, as there will be several rounds of basing aircraft when they become available. The next round will take place no later than the fall of 2015, they said.

“It is certainly disappointing that the Grand Forks Air Force Base was not selected this round, but there are many reasons to be hopeful for future missions,” Heitkamp said.

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