Tanker wars may be back

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Introduction
Dec. 10, 2018, © Leeham News: The tanker wars may be back. Airbus has teamed with Lockheed Martin to offer the Airbus A330-200MRTT to the Pentagon in a for-hire business model. The agreement also provides the prospect of “conceptualizing the tanker of the future.” (The press release is here.) From 2001-2011, the US Air Force, Pentagon and even Congress were embroiled in controversy over recapitalization of the USAF aerial refueling tanker fleet. The KC-135s, based on the Boeing 707, were aging, expensive to maintain and outdated. After 9/11, Boeing proposed leasing 100 tankers based on the 767-200ER to the USAF. A scandal surrounding the USAF approval of this deal sent the air force’s procurement office and Boeing’s CFO to jail and resulted in the resignation of CEO Phil Condit. The lease deal was canceled.
Summary
  • Three rounds of tanker procurement were filled with improprieties, bitter charges and counter charges.
  • Boeing currently has a contract for 52 KC-46A tankers out of an initial procurement of 179.
  • The air force sees a need for 100 more tankers on an accelerated timeline.
  • Fee-based refueling is not unknown to the Pentagon.

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