Air Force announces next tanker aircraft


By Capt. Chris Sukach

Air Force and Defense Department officials announced the award of an engineering and manufacturing development contract valued at more than $3.5 billion for the KC-46A aerial refueler to The Boeing Company today.

Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley said in the briefing that many factors were evaluated during the tanker selection process.

“This selection process determined whether or not the proposals demonstrated the ability of an offerer to deliver all 372 mandatory requirements and whether non-mandatory capabilities would be addressed,” said Secretary Donley, emphasizing that both offerers met the mandatory requirements. “It also took into account fleet mission effectiveness in wartime, and life cycle costs as embodied in fuel efficiency and military construction costs.”

Deputy Secretary of Defense William Lynn noted the “competition favored no one except the taxpayer and the warfighter.”

The Air Force-led selection effort included experts from the larger DOD community, including staff from the Office of the Secretary of Defense and independent review teams during each step of the process.

The thorough and transparent selection process was marked by continual dialogue with offerers to ensure the Air Force had a clear understanding of their proposals and the companies clearly understood the service’s analysis of their offers, said Secretary Donley.

Secretary Donley also highlighted that the warfighter was in charge of stating the requirements for the tanker, and that meeting those requirements enables the aircraft to go to war on day one.

“General Schwartz and I are confident in the fact that when our young pilots, boom operators and maintainers receive this aircraft, they will have the tools they need to be successful at what we ask them to do,” the secretary added.

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz shared the secretary’s sentiment.

“I’m pleased with how this has produced an outcome after an exhaustive effort by hundreds of the department’s very best people, that we will get about delivering the capability that’s long overdue,” General Schwartz said.

While the focus of the briefing was on the award of the contract, Secretary Donley addressed basing considerations for the aircraft, stating that those decisions involve other organizations and will take place over the next couple of years.

Secretary Donley also reiterated the service’s commitment to provide quality equipment to the warfighter.

“To the men and women of our Air Force, today’s announcement represents a long-overdue start to a much-needed program,” Secretary Donley said. “Your Air Force leadership, supported by Dr. (Ashton) Carter and others throughout the Department of Defense, is determined to see this through, and we will stand behind this work.”

Air Force and DOD officials complemented both offerers and thanked congressional oversight committees and their staffs for working with the department during the contract process that served the warfighter and taxpayers well.

The program expects to deliver the first 18 aircraft by 2017.

Click here for some Quick Facts about the KC-46A.

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