While the KC-46’s presence continues to rise, the days of the KC-135 and KC-10 tankers at JB MDL are numbered.
It has been five years since JB MDL has last opened its gates for an Air & Space Open House. According to USAF Major Gina Kelaher – Deputy Air Show Director, the base, home of the 305th Air Mobility Wing, had plans to open its doors in 2020 but the global Coronavirus Pandemic halted those plans. Instead the base pivoted to receive Joint Task Force – Civil Support and support humanitarian operations in New York City.
Once again in 2022 the base was planning an open house, however the installation’s heavy involvement in the Non-Combatant Evacuation of personnel from Afghanistan during Operation Allies Refuge and the subsequent Operation Allies Welcome in the fall of 2021 prevented that show from occurring. So while the base had to cancel two shows it is clear they are, and continue to be, on the forefront of global events.
Also during the past five years the bases own Air Force tanker fleet has seen much activity and change. New training and infrastructure work was in process during that time, all in preparation for the new Boeing KC-46 Pegasus, which replaces the Air Forces existing legacy tankers. The days of the legendary workhorse tankers, KC-135 and KC-10, are numbered. In fact, on May 11, 2023, a KC-10 tanker of the 305th AMW took off on a training sortie from the base for the final time. Therefore the KC-10s being demonstrated at the Open House were flying for the last time until June 22 , when the bases final KC-10 heads to Davis-Monthan AFB to retire at their giant “Boneyard” facility.
As of last weekend’s airshow there are three KC-10s at JB MDL and this is one of the reasons the airshow was so significant and bittersweet for East Coast KC-10 fans. Going forward the only other base that will operate KC-10s is Travis AFB in Northern California. As far as base statistics on the current crop of KC-46s at the Joint Base, the 305th AMW has 13 Pegasus tankers with plans to receive 11 more by fiscal year 2026. It should be noted that McGuire is the only Active-Duty base on the East Coast of the United States with the type.
And what about the plans for JB MDL’s KC-135s of the New Jersey Air National Guards 141st Air Refueling Squadron? Well its footprint is shrinking. The base currently has 6x KC-135’s and, by September of this year, sadly, they too will be gone from the installation. The current plan is to move these airframes to active and guard squadrons throughout the Air Force. Going forward the 141st at JB MDL will be sharing the bases KC-46s, with KC-46 training currently in process for the NJ ANG.
Certainly by the close of this year the entire Air Force tanker fleet at JB MDL will be a single type airframe. Whether this turns out to be a benefit or not for the Air Force remains to be seen. One thing is for certain though, the Boeing KC-46 Pegasus has huge shoes to fill as it replaces tankers that attained extremely high standards for many, many decades.