AFA 2021: USAF plans no big requirement changes between KC-46A and new Bridge Tanker

by Pat Host

Lockheed Martin is offering its LMXT built on the Airbus A330 Multi Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) platform for the US Air Force's Bridge Tanker effort. A top USAF officer does not expect large requirements changes between the KC-46A currently being procured and the Bridge Tanker to prioritize faster fielding of the new aircraft. (Lockheed Martin)

The US Air Force (USAF) is not expecting to make large requirements changes between the Boeing KC-46A Pegasus aerial refuelling tanker it is currently procuring and a new ‘Bridge' tanker to accelerate the future platform's fielding.

Lieutenant General Clinton Hinote, deputy USAF chief of staff for strategy, integration, and requirements, told reporters on 20 September at the Air Force Association's (AFA's) annual conference that the service is prioritizing available equipment for the Bridge Tanker, also known as KC-Y, to divest problematic Boeing KC-135 Stratotankers. The service is finding an increasing number of repairs required to keep the KC-135 airworthy, including making investments to keep the platform flying in US airspace.

The KC-135 will be 70 years old when the USAF receives its last KC-46A delivery in fiscal year (FY) 2029. The service proposed cutting 18 KC-135s in its FY 2022 budget request.

An expert said that the USAF is prioritizing investing in combat aircraft instead of tankers when it does not expect big requirements changes between KC-46A and the Bridge Tanker. Carl Rehberg, senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA) think tank in Washington, DC, told Janes on 20 September that the USAF does not have the research, development, test, and evaluation (RDT&E) money to spend on the Bridge Tanker.

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The US Air Force (USAF) is not expecting to make large requirements changes between the Boeing KC-46...

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