Air Force releases tanker recapitalization program request

By Apurva Minchekar / September 15, 2023 at 3:42 PM

The Air Force is seeking solutions from industry to "deliver commercial-derivate air refueling systems," according to a notice posted Thursday.

Recently, Air Force acquisition chief Andrew Hunter told Congress the service is expecting a gap period between the end of KC-46 tanker aircraft production and the delivery of the next-generation replacement and plans to close that gap by recapitalizing its current tanker fleet.

Along with the request for information, the service has also released the “System Requirement Document (SRD) for the KC-135 Replacement Aircraft System,” both of which are in controlled unclassified information format.

“The draft SRD will capture the current requirements for the Tanker Recapitalization Program with projected deliveries to begin after the last KC-46A delivery,” the service said earlier this month.

Last month, Scott Boyd, deputy program executive for mobility aircraft at the Air Force Life Cycle Industry Day in Dayton, OH said this is the first time the industry will see formal requirements and have an opportunity to respond to it.

Boyd at the event also said after the responses are reviewed, the service will build a business case analysis followed by an acquisition strategy, which is expected to be completed by the third quarter of fiscal year 2024.

Additionally, the House Appropriators Committee, in its draft fiscal year 2024 spending bill, expressed concern about tanker availability during the recapitalization phase and asked the service to continue competition throughout all stages of tanker recapitalization.

The committee has also asked the Air Force secretary to submit a report to the House and Senate Appropriations panels that will provide details on a 10-year schedule for the recapitalization of the tanker fleet, planned tanker aircraft divestitures over the same period as well as a risk assessment of a reduced bridge tanker procurement prior to the delivery of the Next-Generation Air refueling System.

The report should be created in coordination with the FY-25 budget request, the committee noted.