MIDWEST CITY, Okla. — The Air Force has selected the Tinker Air Force Base to maintain and sustain the nation’s newest bomber.
The B-21 Raider is a long-range and highly survivable aircraft capable of avoiding air defenses and conducting a range of critical missions.
According to Secretary of Air Force Heather Wilson, the newest bomber will come on board in the mid 2020s.
“When we buy an aircraft, we have to plan not only to buy that piece of equipment but do the maintenance on that piece of equipment,” Wilson said. “So, it’s a little bit like if you have a car. You got to take it every 3,000 miles not just to get the oil and the filters changed, but the way we maintain our aircraft is sometimes we haul everything out of them. We strip everything about them. We rebuild them the way we need to rebuild them.”
According to Wilson, Tinker Air Force Base was selected because of its proven experience.
“I saw a lot of wonderful things today. The KC-46 complex is coming up out of the ground. Of course, that means 1,300 jobs here in Oklahoma City just for the KC-46 itself,” she said.
The Edwards Air Force Base in California will be the center for tests and evaluation, according to Wilson.
Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Oklahoma, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, praised the Air Force's announcement Friday. In a statement, Sen. Inhofe said this will guarantee the mission of Tinker for years to come and is expected to result in additional investments in the base's infrastructure and personnel.
"Tinker has proven once again that innovation and experience, plus a supportive military community, pays dividends," Inhofe said. "Having the B-21 sustainment at Tinker Air Force Base puts Oklahoma at the forefront of the next generation of military aircraft and solidifies Tinker's rightful place as the nation's premier air logistics facility. This is an honor for Oklahoma and a true testament to the hard work and dedication of our Airmen."
Because the program is still under development, we’re told it’s unclear exactly how many bombers Tinker Air Force Base will be maintaining.