USAF to Choose Tanker Contractor Next Year

Released on Friday, March 31, 2006
United States of America
KC-135 Stratotanker
MQ-1 Predator
USAF - United States Air Force
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 tanker fleet.

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 aircraft.

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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