Ernst asks Air Force general to honor 2003 commitment to upgrade 185th ARW runway extension

Published: Sep. 12, 2023 at 10:28 PM CDT
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WASHINGTON, D.C. (KTIV) - The runway at Sioux City’s 185th Air Refueling Wing needs to be extended. If it’s not extended to 10,000 feet, U.S. Senator Joni Ernst, of Iowa, worries that may cost the base its refueling mission and its tanker squadron.

The issue was raised during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, Tuesday, for the nomination of General David Allvin to the post Chief of Staff of the Air Force. That’s the principal military advisor to the Secretary of the Air Force.

Ernst says when the 185th converted from F-16 fighters to KC-135 tankers in 2003, the Air Force said it would upgrade the airfield. Ernst says the Air Force has failed to follow through on that commitment. The Republican pressed General Allvin to honor that commitment during the hearing, in Washington. “Do, I have your commitment that you will work with the Air National Guard to conduct a proper assessment for the runway upgrade for the airfield at the facility in Sioux City, Iowa?” asked Sen. Joni Ernst, (R) Iowa. “The 185th is a fantastic organization,” said General David W. Allvin. They celebrated their 75th year in 2021. So, we’re nothing if not a total force. I do commit to ensuring that that assessment, that evaluation is done in conjunction with the National Guard to ensure that we have an understanding of cost schedule performance for that particular mission.”

Ernst also worries that the Air Force will upgrade the 185th’s KC-135 refueling tankers to KC-46 tankers, and the existing runway will be inadequate.

Personnel at the 185th say the runway extension is necessary. Right now, tankers can’t take off over a certain weight to make sure they’re not further damaging the runway. So, the tankers take off when they are not fully fueled.

The proposed reconstruction would make the 185th 100-percent capable of future missions so it’s “future-proof” for decades to come.