The primary mission of the 157th Air Refueling Wing at the Pease Air National Guard Base is providing in-flight refueling to U.S. armed forces and allied nations. With these services, aircraft can extend their flying range, enabling their missions to be extended.

In the past, Pease utilized KC-135 Stratotankers for any refueling needs. But as the KC-135s surpass 60 years in service, and costs of maintaining these aircraft continue to skyrocket, a new aircraft is taking over.

The Boeing KC-46A Pegasus aerial refueling aircraft’s size and cargo and fueling capacities far exceed those of the KC-135. With a wingspan of more than 157 feet and length of more than 165 feet, the KC-46A provides the U.S. Air Force with a modern aircraft platform as the backbone for the next generation of aircraft refueling.

Pease was selected as the first National Guard Base to receive the KC-46A. But in order to prepare for the new aircraft, new training equipment and mission support equipment were required, which meant multiple renovation projects for the base.

One of the main challenges that comes with any new beddown project is creating designs for facilities that will support training and mission support equipment that isn’t physically available or developed yet. Pease ultimately chose our team to assist with the beddown based on prior experience with the simulator developer, an understanding of the infrastructure needs and our drive to keep collaboration at the forefront.

New Training Accommodations

As the KC-46A arrives for duty, pilots, boom operators and the ground cargo handling team must be trained on the new flight simulator and fuselage trainer. For Pease to accommodate this new equipment, two facilities had to be renovated.

The first renovation targeted a 7,749-square-foot flight simulator building and an 804-square-foot addition. With prior design experience on similar equipment, the team was able to evaluate the facility with a thorough understanding of the new simulation equipment. Cost-effective solutions were developed to maintain as much of the current facility and systems as possible, coordinating the necessary supporting utilities and interface between the simulator devices and the facility.

A 30,000-square-foot hangar was the second facility to be renovated by our team for the beddown. This hangar is serving as the home to the new fuselage trainer. Design coordination included utilities interface for power, communications, compressed air, breathing air, fire suppression, fire alarm and mass notification. The conversion from hangar to training facility also included the removal of the original hangar doors. The doors were replaced with an insulated metal panel and structural framing system that features multiple overhead doors to provide access to the cargo hatch on the aircraft and a two-tier pallet rack system for storage of mission equipment to be loaded on the aircraft.

Additional building renovations are underway for air traffic control and supply storage. A planning and programming charrette involving all stakeholders was included in the design phase services to identify scope and budget. 

The Future of the KC-46A

Pease received the first of its 12 KC-46A aircraft on Aug. 8. Many of the design strategies the team used can be applied to other bases as they prepare for additional KC-46A rollouts.

A team with previous experience tackling these missions can be an advantage for your renovation project, and the success of any beddown ultimately comes down to heavy collaboration with all of the stakeholders involved.


Planning for the KC-46A started long before there was an aircraft ready to fly from the first main operating base.

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Amy Clement is a project manager at Burns & McDonnell, working with federal and aviation industry clients to engineer creative solutions that support their immediate needs and future goals.