(CBS Seattle/AP) — The Air Force is expected to decide this week if Fairchild Air Force Base will serve as the first base for Boeing’s next generation of air refueling tankers.

The base is the Spokane area’s largest employer,with 5,800 workers and there is a long running fear that Fairchild could be closed. Greater Spokane Inc., an economic development group is working to protect the base and landing the KC-46A would certainly help.

Boeing is building the KC-46 to replace the 50-year-old KC-135s the Air Force currently uses to refuel its planes in mid-flight.

Supporters say putting the tankers at Fairchild is advantageous for many reasons. The base already has a 14,000 foot runway for the planes and a new wing command headquarters. Spokane business leaders say Fairchild is also the only primary tanker base west of the Rocky Mountains, and it’s proximity to Boeing in Seattle would be helpful if there are any issues with the plane.

Three other bases are in the running to get the tanker: Altus Air Force Base in Oklahoma, McConnell Air Force Base in Kansas, and Grand Forks Air Force Base in North Dakota.

A decision could come as soon as Wednesday.

(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)


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