Image copyright US Air Force
By Chris Casteel
Copyright The Oklahoman, Oklahoma City
WASHINGTON — The U.S. Air Force plans to cut a quarter of the AWACS planes at Tinker Air Force Base, but station more air refueling tankers there and spend $111 million to build a maintenance depot space for the next generation of air refueling planes, according to the Air Force budget released Wednesday.
Looking to reshape the service under tight spending constraints, the Air Force said in budget documents that it would reduce its capacity of Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) aircraft by seven; Tinker currently has 28 of the planes.
The E-3G aircraft are equipped with a rotating radar dome with a range of 250 miles; the planes can detect enemy aircraft and ship movements and quickly relay information needed for battle situations.
The Air Force said it would continue modernizing the remaining fleet and fielding a variation of the E-3G.
None of the remaining AWACS planes will be associated now with an Air Force Reserve unit at Tinker. Instead the Air Force plans to adjust the Reserve mission at the base by adding four KC-135s — air refueling tankers — to the eight already there.
Despite budget pressures, the Air Force plans to continue investing heavily at Tinker to prepare for maintenance work on the new Boeing-built refueling tanker, the KC-46A.
This year’s budget included $9 million to purchase land and build a road and fence near the Tinker Aerospace Complex.