Air Force Continues Commitment to KC-46A

At a recent conference the Air Force Secretary, Mr. Michael Donley, discussed the key programs for the Air Force’s future. Facing a declining budget situation the Air Force as all of the services may be forced to choose which investments have a higher priorities then others. Not surprisingly the keys for the Air Force will be the F-35, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV), space and the KC-46A tanker.

The KC-46A currently being developed by Boeing (BA) will go into service later this decade to replace the aging KC-135 fleet. In terms of total cost it is one of the largest current defense programs. If the Air Force follows through with the first 170 odd aircraft the cost will be about $35 billion. There are plans to buy another 300 or more.

If there are as significant reductions to the defense budget as being discussed then the KC-46A like so many other programs may see quantities cut. This could be either the total procured or the annual buys. It could also see it being maintained at the expense of other investment programs such as new UAV or space programs.

Tankers are a key force multiplier for the United States. Declining amounts of strike assets increase the reliance on the tanker fleet. The need for the KC-46A is well established and it is a program now that the commitment to Boeing has been made that the U.S. really cannot afford to reduce. Whether this holds true remains to be seen.

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Just Ask The Question

One of the main reasons we created UnitedStatesTanker.com and this blog was to provide some insight into a very critical acquisition effort to replace America's air refueling tanker fleet.

For those who've been following that newly-started KC-X competition, you know the U.S. Air Force released their draft Request for Proposal (RFP) Sept. 25. This document goes into detail about the 373 requirements that must be met to participate in the competition. It also describes how proposals will be scored and even what happens in case of a tie. Our United States Tanker team has spent a great deal of time studying the draft RFP. Remember this is the main document we'll be using to decide which member of our KC-7A7 'family of tankers' to offer, or whether to offer both.

But we can't just make decisions on what's written in the document alone. Our main focus as we drive toward some key internal decisions is clarity. We must clearly understand how the service's requirements are defined and prioritized, and how our proposal will be evaluated.

So how do we get those answers? Simple...just ask.

Any company seeking to compete to build the replacement for the KC-135 Stratotanker fleet can submit questions to the KC-X Tanker Program Office at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Dayton, Ohio, and have them answered online at the Federal Business Opportunities website.

We began submitting questions earlier this month and look forward to seeing the answers posted on the public website soon. While some of that Q&A may be administrative in nature, you might gain some interesting insight into how the process works by checking out the site. Feel free to tell us what you'd ask.

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Boeing Will Deliver

Hoping you'll read an interesting editorial ("This Time, Air Force Needs to Deliver") posted on the St. Petersburg Times website on the U.S. Air Force's KC-X Tanker competition.  It mentions nearby MacDill AFB (home to the active duty 6th Air Mobility Wing and its associate Air Force Reserve Command 927th Air Refueling Wing) and the KC-135R fleet assigned there.

Most of the editorial focuses on the new competition and how changes from past acquisition efforts will allow the Department of Defense and Air Force to make an "apples-to-apples comparison of the bids."

While most will be picking apart the Draft Request for Proposal and trying to forecast who may win next summer, the most compelling part of this piece was the reference to Air Force folks having to build their own spare parts since they were no longer available for the Eisenhower-era Stratotanker.

It's no secret that the KC-135 fleet needs to be replaced immediately. But as we enter into the KC-X competition and prepare our bid, we always remind our team how critically important the tanker fleet is to this nation, the urgency to win this contract and to start building new tankers.

The St. Petersburg Times suggests that the Air Force "procure a plane that meets its mission requirements for the right price." We firmly believe the Boeing Company and our Tanker Team will do just that by offering a combat-ready KC-7A7 tanker with max capability at lowest cost.

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Meeting the Demand

As we begin the heated competition to replace our nation’s air tanker fleet, you’ll see plenty of stories describing each competitor’s offering. Some of those articles, like in the L.A. Times today, discuss issues surrounding KC-X and how various groups support or oppose them.

What tends to get overlooked is the truly heroic work being done by the men and women of America’s Air Force as they fly and maintain the KC-135 fleet.

Over the weekend, there was a really interesting story that ran in The Press-Enterprise, a paper based near Los Angeles. It went beyond just a basic description of the fleet and highlighted Lt. Col. David Bell, a third-generation KC-135 pilot and member of March Air Reserve Base’s 452nd Air Mobility Wing, Riverside, Calif.

Despite the many systems upgrades and stellar maintenance work to keep the Boeing Stratotanker flying for decades to come, aircraft commanders (like Lt. Col. Bell) and their aircrews deserve a new tanker as soon as possible.

That’s where our KC-7A7 ‘family of tankers’ makes great sense. Whether it’s an agile, flexible wide-body KC-767 tanker to replace the KC-135, or a true large, highly capable 777-based tanker, Boeing is ready to meet the demand.

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Flexibility is the Key

One of the first things you're taught when entering the U.S. Air Force is the phrase "flexibility is the key to airpower." Whether you're graduating from Basic Military Training, the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC), or from the U.S. Air Force Academy, all Airmen have that drilled into their heads.

Now that the U.S. Air Force has begun their efforts to replace the KC-135 Stratotanker fleet through the KC-X competition, it's a good time to reflect on how that tanker fleet provides great flexibility to our nation.

While you may not see tankers on network and cable news, the men and women who fly and maintain these venerable airplanes play a critical role. Without the tanker fleet, the United States would be unable to project both reach and power globally. Not only do they refuel America's Air Force, they also support our allies as we work together around the world.

The Boeing KC-7A7 'family of tankers' also provides flexibility that can benefit both the warfighter and taxpayer. Whether it's the agile 767-based tanker or the large 777-based tanker, we will deliver a combat-ready tanker with max capability at the lowest cost.

If you want more detail on the KC-7A7 tanker, take a look at this brochure.

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