The Air Force hopes to have a contractor selected for a KC-135 Stratotanker
replacement by mid-2007. Secretary of the Air Force Michael W. Wynne told
members of the aerospace industry March 30 the service is hoping to make a
source selection for the KC-135 aircraft by the middle of 2007. The Air Force
would then embark on an estimated 31-year purchasing program to replace its
The Air Force hopes to release a request for proposal -- an invitation for
aircraft manufacturers to offer to build the tanker -- by September. Following
that, the Air Force would choose an aircraft contractor from those who expressed
interest, and would then award a contract.
The secretary said he expects the service to buy about 15 to 20 replacement
tankers a year. He said that at that rate, by the time the last KC-135 was
replaced, it could be as old as 80 years.
The Air Force is also trying to reduce the number of aircraft in the fleet
through retirement. At a time when the service is stressed because of the war on
terror, it might seem appropriate to keep those aircraft. But the secretary said
reducing the amount of airframes that need to be maintained, thus freeing up
resources, is the right move.
Some of that increase in capability and technology of Air Force aircraft
involves their interface with air traffic control systems. In the United States,
the secretary said, air traffic control systems on the ground need to be
upgraded and modernized to take advantage of the capabilities available on newer
This new technology in the cockpit and on the ground helps make congested
airspace safer and allows Air Force aircraft to better coordinate with controls
while flying on civilian routes. One such example is at Hancock Field in New
York, where MQ-1 Predator Unmanned Aerial Vehicles will be based.
The Air Force is working with the Federal Aviation Administration and with
industry to develop new systems, such as the Next Generation Air Transportation
System, to modernize air traffic control in the United States.
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