ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE — An Air Force team charged with finding a home for the MC-12 aircraft gave Robins Air Force Base a favorable evaluation Thursday. The team of about a dozen has been in the area since Monday and presented some of its findings to base officials Thursday afternoon.
Using a list of factors to evaluate the base — facilities, airspace and air quality, among others — the installation was found to be a “feasible” spot for the MC-12W aircraft, according to a source who watched the presentation at Robins.
The findings do not guarantee that Robins will win the program, but the evaluation team could have found that basing the MC-12W was not feasible for a number of different reasons.
“We pretty much have a checklist, I guess you could say,” Jim Herrmann, the evaluation team chief, said during a Thursday morning news conference at the base before presenting his findings. Using that checklist, Robins did not raise any red flags.
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Robins is competing with five other installations — Altus Air Force Base in Oklahoma, Beale Air Force Base in California, Key Field Air Guard Station in Mississippi, Langley Air Force Base in Virginia and Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri — for the program.
The MC-12W is a small fixed-wing, intelligence gathering aircraft. If Robins is selected for the program, the program could add as many as 37 additional aircraft and 700 airmen to the base.
“Our approach pretty much is to look at this thing from an operational perspective and a logistical perspective,” Herrmann said. “Local community will factor into it ... you have to be impressed with the local support (of Robins).”
Notably, Herrmann said that if the area were to be put on an Environmental Protection Agency non-attainment list, it would “not necessarily” torpedo Robins’ efforts to win the MC-12W. The EPA’s non-attainment lists mark local areas for unacceptably high levels of air pollution.
The evaluation team seemed to be primarily focused on the base’s facilities — housing, dining facilities, fitness centers and hangar space.
“Robins is doing very well as far as that’s concerned, in my opinion,” said Mary Therese Tebbe, the executive director of the 21st Century Partnership. Tebbe and other community leaders met with the evaluation team during its visit.
The team has now evaluated five of the six candidates, with only Altus remaining.
According to the timetable laid out by the Air Force in April, Secretary of the Air Force Mike Donley and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz will award the program in March of next year.
However, Herrmann said he should have “a pretty good indication around the end of August” of where the Air Force will base the aircraft.