DAYTON, Ohio—What’s now formally often known as the KC-135 Tanker Recapitalization Program—previously referred to as KC-Y or the “bridge tanker”—ought to clear the Pentagon’s joint necessities course of by the tip of September, at which period the Air Drive will situation a Request for Data to trade for potential options, Scott Boyd, USAF’s deputy program supervisor for mobility plane, advised reporters July 31.
Nonetheless, Boyd stated the service isn’t but prepared to debate the timing and precise variety of plane in this system, as a lot of that can depend upon the success and timing of the Subsequent Era Air-refueling System, or NGAS, which can come after it.
The Air Drive will full an acquisition technique for the KC-135 recap tanker within the third quarter of fiscal 2024, he added. Will probably be based mostly on an evaluation of options that may also launch this fall.
The KC-135 recap effort ought to full the Joint Capabilities Integration and Improvement System (JCIDS) course of subsequent month. Across the identical time, the RFI shall be revealed, Boyd stated throughout Air Drive Materiel Command’s annual Life Cycle Business Days convention.
“As quickly as I get a programs requirement doc,” this system will get underway, Boyd stated. Will probably be the primary official necessities assertion for this system and can translate the necessities “into the language of trade,” he stated. No further time shall be wanted to put in writing the RFI as a result of the Air Drive already has all the data that went into the necessities and no modifications are anticipated, he stated. Responses to the RFI could be due subsequent yr.
Boyd stated “nothing has modified” with regard to the KC-135 recap, in that no explicit airplane has been dominated in or out. Senior Air Drive leaders have stated they’re leaning towards shopping for extra KC-46s from Boeing because the KC-135 recap, however Boyd stated the Air Drive nonetheless has time to do “market analysis.”
Lockheed Martin is providing USAF a tanker based mostly on the Airbus A330 Multi-Position Tanker Transport dubbed LMXT, and firm officers have argued NGAS will doubtless not be prepared by 2035, the Air Drive’s goal date.
When NGAS enters the fleet will have an effect on what number of tankers the Air Drive purchase as a part of the KC-135 recap program, Boyd famous.
Air Drive Secretary Frank Kendall says the service must get the NGAS as quickly as potential. The unique plan referred to as for the longer term tanker—anticipated to be small, stealthy, and able to accompanying fight plane in contested airspace—round 2040, however Kendall has “dramatically pulled that in and stated ‘no, we have to go sooner as a result of it’s that NGAS functionality … that scares China,” Boyd stated.
With that up to date NGAS schedule, Air Drive acquisition government Andrew Hunter stated in March he thinks the KC-135 recap program will include round 75 airplanes, after the service had beforehand stated it’d purchase 150. Lockheed officers, alternatively, have prompt 2040 is a extra practical timeline for NGAS, which might necessitate extra KC-135 recap tankers.
Whereas Kendall and Hunter have hinted they might merely go for extra KC-46s as an alternative of a tanker competitors, some lawmakers from states the place Lockheed would assemble its LMXT providing have tried to mandate competitors by way of laws.
Regardless of all this, “I’ve truthfully not felt stress from Congress or from inside the Air Drive to do something totally different than what we had been already doing,” Boyd stated.
In response to questions from reporters, Boyd additionally supplied little indication whether or not the forthcoming necessities will tip this system towards the KC-46 or LMXT. He stated the JCIDS doc for the recapitalization program won’t embody something “revolutionary” and will “probably be happy” by continued buys of KC-46s.
Alternatively, he additionally famous the doc “isn’t going to declare that we can not create a brand new logistics” tail for the airplane to be acquired—which LMXT would require, as a result of there isn’t a related airplane in USAF’s stock.
“It might communicate to sustainability of the weapon system in ways in which let you know that I most likely don’t need to create a brand new [logistics and support train], nevertheless it’s not going to be clear that you may’t,” Boyd stated. “It’s going to return down [to] … the enterprise case evaluation that we’re doing, and the ultimate market analysis that we do to determine what’s the greatest worth strategy for the Air Drive. And that’ll be our suggestion.”
There may also be classes realized from the KC-46’s troubled improvement—Boeing agreed to a fixed-price improvement and manufacturing program on the KC-46, however thus far has borne greater than $7 billion in overages on the challenge—that can apply to the brand new tanker program, famous Col. Leigh Ottati, chief of the KC-46 program workplace.
“Everybody wants to know” the scope of a program like a brand new tanker, stated Ottati. The KC-46, initially considered a easy conversion of a cargo jet right into a tanker, turned out to be “extra improvement than everybody thought,” and Boyd stated that lesson shall be entrance of thoughts because the Air Drive pursues the KC-135 recap and NGAS.
Business and authorities have to each perceive “the scope of what’s being requested,” he stated.