OKC VeloCity | Tinker AFB: America's largest air defense depot

Tinker AFB: America's largest air defense depot

By Chamber Staff / Economy / October 15, 2020

Editor's note: this overview of Tinker Air Force Base is the first chapter in our multimedia feature Aerospace: Soaring to ever-higher heights. We hope this intro on aviation in OKC encourages you to check out the the feature story on greateroklahomacity.com and share it with family, friends, neighbors and potential residents/investors.

Tinker Air Force Base is the heartbeat of the U.S. Air Force mission, sustaining operations around the world. Its presence is critical not just to Oklahoma, but to the defense of our nation. 

With more than 26,000 military and civilian workers, Tinker AFB is the largest single-site employer in Oklahoma and has an annual payroll of $1.8 billion. The nine-square-mile base includes 760 buildings totaling a building floor space of more than 15 million square feet. It provides an annual statewide economic impact of $4.5 billion, and it creates an estimated 33,000 secondary jobs. To put it into perspective, Tinker has all of the facilities, infrastructure and environmental needs of a 31,000-person city.

This small city is a global hub home to major Department of Defense, Air Force and Navy units with national defense missions. It heads up the U.S. Air Force Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO) effort, one of the largest and most important operations in the free world.

 

World-Class Depot Maintenance

WORLD-CLASS DEPOT MAINTENANCE

Time matters in this because every day that the asset is in our depot is one day that the warfighter who uses it doesn’t have it.

Lt. Gen. Gene Kirkland, Commander, Air Force Sustainment Center

Tinker’s Air Force Sustainment Center (AFSC) provides expeditionary capabilities to warfighters through the management of more than 500 U.S. Air Force aircraft. AFSC consolidates oversight of the maintenance missions performed at three air logistics facilities: Oklahoma City Air Logistics Complex at Tinker AFB; Warner Robins Air Logistics Complex at Robins AFB in Georgia; and Ogden Air Logistics Complex at Hill AFB in Utah.

Of these, the Oklahoma City Air Logistics Complex (OC-ALC) is the largest maintenance, repair and overhaul facility for the U.S. Department of Defense. It is the nation’s preeminent aircraft and jet engine repair center and houses some of the most sophisticated technical repair and manufacturing processes in the world.

OC-ALC is the primary maintenance center for bombers, refuelers and reconnaissance aircraft including the Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker, B-52 Stratofortress, B-1 Lancer, E-3 Sentry (AWACS) and Northrop Grumman B-2 Stealth Bomber. The OC-ALC is also awaiting the Air Force’s next-generation tanker, the KC-46A Pegasus. It’s the newest in-air refueling plane and will eventually replace the KC-135 Stratotanker.

 

MRO Moves & News

Tinker has been tapped for KC-46A maintenance and construction on the $400 million, 14-dock campus is underway. It sits on a 158-acre site on the south side of the base on land that was jointly acquired by the Air Force, Oklahoma City and Oklahoma County for $44 million.

Learn more about the historic BNSF land acquisition. 

By 2028, the Air Force plans to have purchased 179 of the planes and all 14 hangers at Tinker should be completed. Work associated with the KC-46A is anticipated to add around 1,350 jobs and have an economic impact of nearly $1 billion in the first decade.

Ribbon cutting for the first completed KC-46A Pegasus' maintenance hangers. 

More big news came recently with the announcement of Tinker’s selection to maintain and sustain Northrop Grumman’s B-21 Raider, the Air Force’s long-range strike bomber. The first B-21 operational units are expected to be ready by 2025 and the work surrounding them should generate more than 1,000 jobs.

 

TAC: Advanced Manufacturing Plant

What does it take to turn a former GM manufacturing plant into one of the most sophisticated aviation and aerospace manufacturing and production facilities in the world? Hard work, teamwork and a touch of ingenuity helped create the 3.8-million-square-foot Tinker Aerospace Complex (TAC). It houses some of the 76th Maintenance Wing operations and other U.S. Department of Defense workloads. Private companies engaged in defense-related contracts or activity can lease space in TAC through either Public-Private Partnering Agreements or Enhanced-Use Leases.

When the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber leaders first shared their vision for the plant, they brought together officials from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma County, the State of Oklahoma, the Department of Defense, GM and Tinker Air Force Base. With all on board, a plan was set into action. Through an extraordinary public/private partnership and a determined Chamber effort, the citizens of Oklahoma County would soon pass a $54-million bond to purchase the GM plant and lease it to Tinker Air Force Base.

This was the most unique thing I have ever been involved in, in my 32 years of Air Force service.

Debra Walker Tune, Then-Department of Defense Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Logistics at the Pentagon

“I have never dealt with a Chamber like that before,” marveled Debra Walker Tune, then-Department of Defense Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Logistics at the Pentagon. “They were so aggressive and responsive. They were going to make it happen. You sensed it. It was extremely rewarding for me to be able to deal with people of that caliber.”

Learn more about the purchase of the former GM plant for Tinker. 

The historic and innovative collaboration that brought advanced aerospace manufacturing space to one of America’s flagship military installations has been called a model by many. To Oklahoma City leaders, it was simply the right thing to do.

“I have never seen a team of public officials from the state, city and county levels work so well together,” recalled Tune. “They were united, not divided.”

Tinker Air Force Base was named after Major General Clarence L. Tinker, an Oklahoma native and the first Native American (Osage) Major General. Tinker lost his life while leading a group of LB-30 “Liberator” bombers on a long-range strike against Japanese forces during the early months of World War II.

Giving the Air Force Wings

GIVING THE AIR FORCE WINGSFew places can rival Oklahoma City’s aerospace workforce. It is more than 38,000 highly-skilled, well-qualified workers strong. But this is also a city with an enviable level of advanced manufacturing experience and history. International companies like Terex, Johnson Controls and Quad/Graphics have followed the Air Force and Defense Department’s lead in locating in Oklahoma City because of our wealth of workforce advantages.Few places can rival Oklahoma City’s aerospace workforce. It is more than 38,000 highly-skilled, well-qualified workers strong. But this is also a city with an enviable level of advanced manufacturing experience and history. International companies like Terex, Johnson Controls and Quad/Graphics have followed the Air Force and Defense Department’s lead in locating in Oklahoma City because of our wealth of workforce advantages.

Few places can rival Oklahoma City’s aerospace workforce. It is more than 38,000 highly-skilled, well-qualified workers strong. But this is also a city with an enviable level of advanced manufacturing experience and history. International companies like Terex, Johnson Controls and Quad/Graphics have followed the Air Force and Defense Department’s lead in locating in Oklahoma City because of our wealth of workforce advantages.

The workers’ productivity hasn’t gone unnoticed either. Major OKC employers including Tinker Air Force Base and the Mike Monroney Aeronautical Center have been the recipient of numerous national and state quality awards. In addition, innovative initiatives like the Aviation Workforce Bill and Training for Industry Program — combined with Oklahoma’s renowned Career Tech training system — ensure that companies locating in Oklahoma City and the Tinker Aerospace Complex will have the certified, skilled and educated employees needed to serve our men and women in uniform.  

 

At the opening of the newest KC-46A Pegasus hanger, Lt. Gen. Gene Kirkland, commander of the Air Force Sustainment Center, recognized the importance of a qualified workforce and community support for today’s Air Force. “It’s no accident that our Air Force leadership selected Tinker Air Force Base for the Pegasus Depot Campus given the base’s long track record maintaining the legacy KC-135 refueling aircraft and bolstered by a world-class workforce and unmatched community support,” he said.

Read Aerospace: Soaring to ever-higher heights on greateroklahomacity.com. 

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