TAMPA — A KC-135 refueling tanker that crashed in Kyrgyzstan earlier Friday was not assigned to MacDill Air Force Base, said U.S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young.
Young said an Air Force official briefed him and told him that the aircraft that crashed was assigned to McConnell Air Force Base in Kansas. He said three members of the crew were killed in the crash.
MacDill officials had declined to comment about the crash. MacDill is the home base for 16 KC-135s.
The U.S. Air Mobility Command operates 414 KC-135s, an Eisenhower-era aircraft that the Air Force hopes to phase out over the next several decades. Despite its age, the KC-135 fleet has an excellent safety record with the last crash coming in 1999 in Germany.
The crash site is near the village of Chaldovar, about 100 miles west of the Manas air base. Pieces of the plane, including its tail, lay in a grassy field bordered by mountains; the air was infused with the heavy stench of fuel.
The U.S. base in Kyrgyzstan, called the Transit Center at Manas, said it had no immediate information. The base, which is adjacent to the Manas International Airport outside the Kyrgyz capital of Bishkek, was established in late 2001 to support the international military campaign in Afghanistan.
It functions both as an interim point for troops going into or out of Afghanistan and as a home for the tanker planes that refuel warplanes in flight.
The base has been the subject of a contentious dispute between the United States and its host nation. In 2009, the U.S. reached an agreement with the Kyrgyz government to use it in return for $60 million a year. But the lease runs out in June 2014 and the U.S. government wants to keep it beyond that point to aid in the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan.
Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.