WARNER ROBINS — Col. David Southerland, the vice commander of the 78th Air Base Wing, told the quarterly meeting of the 21st Century Partnership on Tuesday that the MC-12W mission could be split between two bases.
The move would essentially result in two winners, with some of the aircraft sent to one installation for training and the remaining aircraft at another base for operations. Six installations, including Robins Air Force Base, are currently vying to base the MC-12W.
An Air Force evaluation team inspected Robins and the Warner Robins area this month. Southerland said the split option was “suggested as a possible alternative” by the evaluation team.
Southerland said that the Air Force may send an evaluation team to Robins again this year, if it needs to confirm that Robins is the pick.
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“What I told the team chief at the out-brief was, ‘I look forward to seeing you this fall,’” Southerland said.
Southerland added that when the Air Force decides where the program will go, the influx of troops will come as soon as a month after, “hot on the heels of that decision.”
According to a time schedule released in March, the Air Force Chief of Staff and the Secretary of the Air Force will decide where to send the MC-12Ws in April 2011.
However, Jim Herrman, the MC-12W basing evaluation team chief, said this month that he would have “a pretty good indication around the end of August” of where the Air Force will send the aircraft.
The MC-12W evaluation team met with Robins officials after their three-day look at the base. Using a list of eight requirements, the evaluation team told the base officials that it found Robins to be a “feasible” base for the program on each criteria.
The MC-12W is a small fixed-wing, intelligence gathering aircraft. In addition to Robins, 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 — are competing for the program.
As many as 37 additional aircraft and 700 airmen could be sent to the base if Robins is selected for both ends of the program.
Southerland said the evaluation team did not say how many aircraft would go to the training unit and what would go to the operational unit.
To contact writer Thomas L. Day, call 744-4489.