Air Force to formally begin commercial aerial refueling business case study

By Courtney Albon / June 9, 2021 at 11:53 AM

The Air Force has approved a plan to develop a business case analysis for using commercial aerial refueling aircraft to supplement tanker capacity, according to the deputy commander of Air Mobility Command.

Lt. Gen. Brian Robinson said today during a Defense News event the plan was approved in the last two weeks and will allow the service to move ahead with a formal BCA. That analysis typically takes 12 to 18 months to complete.

Last June, the service released results from an AMC and U.S. Transportation Command commercial aerial refueling working group study that showed the additional tanking capacity could cost between $15,000 and $27,000 per flying hour and take anywhere from one to 10 years to implement.

The service estimates it will need about 6,000 additional flying hours per year, but the BCA will refine that requirement. It will also provide more information on the effect commercial aerial refueling could have on readiness as well as the legal regulatory and financial challenges and possible contract options to help the service make a decision.

The service has studied its options for commercial tanking capacity in the past but has taken a relook at the issue in the last few years, creating a working group and releasing requests for information to industry.

In response, Lockheed Martin and Airbus announced in 2018 they would offer the A330 Multi-Role Tanker Transport as an option to meet the service’s requirements.