The US Air Force (USAF) has formally launched its KC-Y tanker competition, with a request for information (RFI) issued on 16 June.
Known also as Bridge Tanker, the KC-Y requirement is for a commercially derived aerial refuelling aircraft to supplement the USAF's fleet once deliveries of the Boeing KC-46A Pegasus are complete at the end of the decade.
The US Air Force is looking at KC-Y as a bridging solution between the KC-X requirement now being delivered and the future KC-Z. It aims to supplement the service's existing tanker fleet, which includes the KC-10A Extender (pictured). (Janes/Gareth Jennings)
“The new aircraft will bridge the gap [from KC-X] to the next Advanced Air Refueling Tanker recapitalisation phase, previously referred to as KC-Z. The existing KC-46A firm-fixed price contract is limited to 13 production lots, with the last planned procurement in 2027 and delivery in 2029,” the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center (AFLCMC) said. “The requirements for Bridge Tanker are currently being defined and the necessary capabilities will be incorporated into the final request for proposal (RFP) once it is validated through the Department of Defense's joint staffing process. The [US] Air Force plans to release the final RFP by the end of 2022.”
With KC-Y deliveries set to commence in 2029, the USAF is looking to receive between 140 and 160 new tankers at a rate of 12 to 15 per year. As noted by the AFLCMC, as a commercially derivede aircraft, the Bridge Tanker will be based on existing and emerging technologies with a full and open acquisition competition. Neither developmental stealth nor unmanned capability is planned.