The Tulsa District's Central Oklahoma Area Office, is staying busy with military construction projects related to the Air Force's newest air refueling platform.
Seven of the 11 military construction projects the team is currently supporting are related directly to depot maintenance of the KC-46A Pegasus, said Daniel de Robles, Area Engineer at Tinker Air Force Base. de Robles oversees a staff of more than 40 people including 20 engineers from varying disciplines, construction control representatives, administrative support staff and interns.
"Our current, largest project is a $120 million two-bay hangar for the KC-46A program. The hangar is the first of its kind, combining several types of maintenance capabilities usually done in separate facilities," said de Robles. "The facility is 130,000 square feet, with each of its two hangar bays reaching over 100-feet tall."
The Air Force acquired the site in 2014 and construction began in 2016. Three years into construction, the team is looking at another decade of construction and projects related to KC-46A depot maintenance.
The projects will culminate in a KC-46A campus consisting of 14 hangar bays, a Systems Integration Lab, airfield aprons and a taxiway. Total construction costs will exceed $600 million.
The Department of Defense divides maintenance of weapon systems and mission support assets into field level maintenance and depot level maintenance.
Field level maintenance occurs at the location the aircraft, vehicle or ship is assigned. Depot level maintenance includes overhauling or rebuilding materiel after a predetermined time frame, usually several years, in operation.
Each military branch operates its own organic depot-level maintenance facilities but the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is the agency tasked with building those facilities for the Army and Air Force.
The KC-46A is in its infancy compared to the Air Force's other refueling platforms, the KC-135 Stratotanker and the KC-10 Extender, and likely won't require depot-level maintenance for several years.
"We want the warfighter to have high quality facilities delivered on time. The depot-level work may come quicker than expected," said de Robles. "The Air Force may use the facilities to maintain other aircraft when they aren't working on the KC-46A aircraft. There may be unscheduled maintenance needed. We have to be ready for that."
Project engineers deal with a near-constant stream of submittals, meetings and communication requirements. According to Army Capt. Brian King the engineering isn't the most difficult aspect of their work.
"I would say the most challenging thing is trying to prioritize and balance my time among the multiple projects and other requirements," King said.
Though the team has time before the first KC-46As roll in for depot-level maintenance, de Robles said his team is very mindful of the 'why' behind all of the military construction work.
"We have active duty reservists, veterans, military spouses and parents of military members on staff. So, it's not just our job it's personal. It's an honor to get to play a part in this global mission. We want the warfighter to have high quality facilities delivered on time."