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Air Platforms

Update: US lawmaker suggests preventing proposed US Air Force tanker retirements

13 March 2020
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Key Points

  • A US lawmaker floated the idea of preventing the US Air Force from reducing its legacy tanker fleet and suggested the service may have to re-compete its tanker acquisition effort
  • The USAF's proposed solution, Boeing's KC-46A, has experienced problems with its remote vision system

A US lawmaker on 11 March not only hinted at preventing the US Air Force (USAF) from reducing its legacy aerial refuelling tanker fleet but suggested the service consider re-competing its effort to acquire a new tanker platform.

Doug Lamborn, House Armed Services (HASC) readiness subcommittee ranking member, said it would be irresponsible for the subcommittee to allow the USAF to proceed with its proposed tanker retirements because of the unsafe conditions of the Boeing KC-46A Pegasus aerial refuelling tanker's remote vision system (RVS). The USAF chief of staff, General David Goldfein, said on 3 March that the RVS fix would be in place and operational by 2023-24, but that it would take "some time" to retrofit the rest of the fleet.

"I am not one who is calling to cancel this programme, but if we do not see progress this year, the department many need to reconsider re-competing the programme," Lamborn said.

The USAF, in its fiscal year 2021 (FY 2021) budget request, proposed reducing its tanker fleet by 13 aircraft across the active service, the Air National Guard (ANG), and the Air Force Reserves. The USAF wants to reduce its McDonnell Douglas KC-10A Extender capacity by 16 aircraft and its Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker fleet by 13 platforms. It wants to increase its newer KC-46A fleet by 16 aircraft.

US Representative Doug Lamborn suggested that ongoing KC-46A remote vision system issues would make it irresponsible for his subcommittee to allow the US Air Force to proceed with divesting legacy tankers. (US Air Force)US Representative Doug Lamborn suggested that ongoing KC-46A remote vision system issues would make it irresponsible for his subcommittee to allow the US Air Force to proceed with divesting legacy tankers. (US Air Force)

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