It was a first on Thursday at McConnell Air Force Base as a KC-135 Stratotanker was rolled into a hangar built to house the KC-46 Pegasus.
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The KC-135 was suddenly dwarfed.
The hangar is the first of three to open at the base and is part of a $267 million construction project.
“This is a great day for Team McConnell and the greater Wichita community,” said Lt. Col. Patrick Cain, the 22nd Maintenance Squadron commander. “This is the first time we are able to operationally use this milestone hangar.”
The Boeing-built KC-46 tanker is considered the military version of the 767 commercial jet. And the Boeing-built KC-135 is the military version of the 707 jet, Boeing’s first jetliner. The KC-135 was the Air Force’s first aerial refueling aircraft — some of which are six decades old.
The first of the base’s KC-46 tankers will be arriving at McConnell later this year.
“The base did push for the KC-46,” Cain said. “We have an ongoing tanker mission here at McConnell, and this just continues that mission well into the future.”
And the difference in the two tankers? Size.
“The KC-46 has a greater refueling capacity and greater cargo capacity,” he said.
The hangar shown Thursday to area media is the smallest of the three hangars built, Cain said. A two-bay hangar is opening next month, and a three-bay hangar is expected to be completed in June.
Cain said the projects used 100 percent Kansas steel, and nearly 79 percent of it was recycled.
“Bottom line, these tankers can reach any contingency in the world anytime, anywhere,” he said. “This ensures we continue the next generation tanker for the Air Force, Department of Defense and our allies.”