Air Force Bases Evacuate Aircraft, Report No Damage from Severe Storms

Air Force bases in Kansas and Oklahoma evacuated their aircraft ahead of severe weather over Memorial Day weekend, but no Air Force installations in the region experienced any serious issues from the storms, which caused more than two dozen deaths and massive power outages across the southern and central U.S.

Several KC-135 Stratotankers and KC-46A Pegasus aircraft departed McConnell Air Force Base, Kan., on May 25 to avoid severe weather forecasted for the Wichita area later that day and the following day.

The relocation was to “protect the aircraft from potential damage, but also preserve the 22nd Air Refueling Wing’s capability to support its worldwide aerial refueling and airlift mission,” a base spokesperson told Air & Space Forces Magazine. The aircraft count and the receiving base locations were not revealed due to operational security. The spokesperson added that aircraft undergoing various phases of maintenance, along with a range of flightline vehicles and equipment, were safely stored in hangars during the weekend.

A KC-46A Pegasus takes off from McConnell Air Force Base, Kansas, April 15, 2024. Due to the possibility of high winds and hail, the majority of McConnell’s aircraft left the base for a weather relocation. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st class William Lunn)

The base reported no damage after the storm, and all of the refueling tankers returned to the base on May 26, the spokesperson confirmed.

This marked McConnell’s fourth aircraft relocation in six weeks due to severe weather, following its tankers’ evacuation earlier this month in response to potential large hail and tornadoes warnings.

Tinker Air Force Base, Okla.—the hub of maintenance and sustainment center for various aircraft, including the E-3 Sentry, E-6 Mercury, and KC-135 Stratotanker—also flushed their aircraft from the base ahead of the severe weather. A 72nd Air Base Wing spokesperson told Air & Space Forces Magazine that the aircraft have already started returning, and the base suffered no serious issues from the weather.

Other Air Force installations across the region reported no aircraft movement or site damage from the storm, including:

  • Altus Air Force Base, Okla.
  • Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark.
  • Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo.
  • Barksdale Air Force Base, La.
  • Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas
  • Dyess Air Force Base, Texas

Devastating storms and tornadoes pummeled parts of the South and Midwest U.S. starting on the evening of May 25, spreading eastward on May 27.

Air Force installations frequently choose to evacuate their aircraft in advance of storms. Altus did so in April ahead of forecasted tornadoes, and with hurricane season officially beginning June 1, bases in Florida and other southeastern states may do so in the months ahead. The National Weather Service is predicting an above-average hurricane activity in the Atlantic this year.