The Alaska Air National Guard’s 168th Wing will receive four additional KC-135 Stratotankers to add to the eight KC-135s assigned to the 168th Wing at Eielson. Along with the four tankers comes an additional 200 active-duty personnel. The aircraft were reassigned from a mix of duty stations on March 18 by Acting Secretary of the Air Force John P. Roth. The aircraft are expected to arrive at Eielson before the end of 2023.
The 168th Wing at Eielson is the only Arctic region air refueling unit in the United States says the Alaska National Guard. The current eight tankers transfer more fuel than any other Air National Guard tanker wing. Most of the aircraft refueled by the wing are active-duty assets, many of which are on federal operational missions. The Wing also provides aerial refueling support to military aircraft for training missions and in support of exercises.
“The Alaska Air National Guard does an incredible job working with our mission partners in an existing association with shared aircraft and active-duty personnel at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, and we will expand that healthy partnership up north at Eielson Air Force Base,” said Maj. Gen. Torrence Saxe, adjutant general of the Alaska National Guard and commissioner for the Alaska Department of Military and Veterans Affairs. “The additional KC-135s and personnel underscore the growing importance of the Arctic and our mission to protect and defend our state and nation.”
According to a USAF press release, the 2019 DoD Arctic Strategy outlines the department’s role and efforts to optimize Air and Space Force capabilities throughout the region in support of the National Defense Strategy by defending the homeland, competing when necessary to maintain favorable regional balances of power, and ensuring common domains remain free and open.