Michigan Officials Announce Air Force Decision to Base KC-46A Tankers at Selfridge Air National Guard Base, Continue Push for Fighter Mission

Decision Comes Shortly After Officials Called on Air Force to Select Selfridge for New Tanker Mission, In Addition to New, Long-Term Fighter Jet Mission

Thursday, January 11, 2024

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Gary Peters (D-MI), Governor Gretchen Whitmer (D-MI), and U.S. Representatives John James (R-MI-10), Elissa Slotkin (D-MI-07), Debbie Dingell (D-MI-06), Lisa McClain (R-MI-09), Haley Stevens (D-MI-11), John Moolenaar (R-MI-02), Hillary Scholten (D-MI-03), Jack Bergman (R-MI-01), Dan Kildee (D-MI-08), Bill Huizenga (R-MI-04), and Tim Walberg (R-MI-05) released the following joint statement announcing the U.S. Air Force will be selecting Selfridge Air National Guard Base in Macomb County to host a new squadron of twelve KC-46A refueling tankers:

“We welcome this exciting news that will help to secure the future of Selfridge Air National Guard Base for decades to come. The twelve KC-46A refueling tankers – a larger unit than the eight KC-135s now at Selfridge – are next-generation aircraft that will strengthen American defense operations and capabilities for future threats, particularly as we prepare for potential conflicts in the Indo-Pacific. Operating these tankers out of Selfridge will ensure the base – and Michigan – remain essential to U.S. military strategy while supporting local jobs and our state’s robust defense sector. Our bipartisan coalition pushed for basing KC-46s and a future fighter mission at Selfridge, holding dozens of meetings and calls with senior Air Force officials and hosting them in Michigan to emphasize the importance of our state and Selfridge to national security. Our delegation is grateful to the Air Force for their professionalism throughout this process. Importantly, Air Force officials have made it clear that this decision will not prevent Selfridge from being considered for a future fighter mission. We remain committed to achieving that goal.”

The Air Force informed the officials that they will base twelve KC-46As at Selfridge Air National Guard Base, beginning in 2029, prior to the divestment of the KC-135s. These new, next-generation tankers provide many enhanced capabilities, including the ability to refuel multiple aircraft types on the same mission and versatile cargo capacity. Additionally, KC-46As have advanced self-protection, defensive, and communication capabilities, improving its ability to operate in future conflicts.

This announcement comes after the lawmakers and governor recently urged U.S. Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall to select Selfridge Air National Guard Base to host a new squadron of KC-46A refueling tankers. The letter to Secretary Kendall highlighted Selfridge’s unique capability to host these tankers while reiterating the authors’ commitment to ensuring Selfridge is also selected to host a new, long-term fighter jet mission. This came after the Air Force identified Selfridge as “an indispensable source of tanker capacity for our national security” in a letter to Peters and Stabenow in 2021.

The tanker mission is estimated to bring over 1,000 military personnel to Selfridge, which currently hosts over 1,400 Michigan Air National Guard jobs, including nearly 1,000 full-time personnel.

Selfridge, an ideal Air Force training space, provides access to the largest military airspace complex east of the Mississippi River, hosts units from every component of the U.S. military, is located on an international border, and is joint integrated with the National All-Domain Warfighting Center. Launched in Governor Whitmer’s first term, Selfridge’s Kelly Johnson Joint All-Domain Innovation Center leverages Michigan’s research universities, booming defense industry, and engineering, cyber, and technological expertise to provide a premier venue for collaboration in direct support of the National Defense Strategy.

Economically, Selfridge boasts an estimated $850 million in economic impact state-wide, affecting approximately 5,000 military and civilian support personnel. Selfridge is anchored with a strong and vibrant Base Community Council that strengthens the relationship between Southeast Michigan’s civilian and military communities.