Kendall: Potential for KC-Y bridge tanker competition appearing less likely

By Briana Reilly / March 28, 2022 at 3:08 PM

As the Air Force continues to put the finishing touches on its requirements for the KC-Y bridge tanker, service Secretary Frank Kendall said a potential competition for the effort is appearing to be less likely.

Seeking to serve as a bridge between the end of Boeing’s KC-46 production in the late 2020s and the follow-on Advanced Aerial Refueling program, requirements for a future tanker “started to look like a modified KC-46 more than they do a completely new design,” Kendall told reporters during a Pentagon briefing Friday.

Still, he emphasized service officials will “be doing due diligence and market research analysis” as they work to finalize their requirements over the next several months.

“I’m going to be very transparent about this: I think that there’s still a possibility of a competition out there, but as we’ve looked at our requirements, the likelihood of a competition has come down,” Kendall said.

A request for information last summer showed the service had expected it would need to buy between 140 and 160 non-developmental tankers to supplement its fleet by 2030. In late January, Lockheed Martin announced it plans to build its offering for the KC-Y competition in Mobile, AL, and Marietta, GA, should its LMXT aircraft win the service's contract.

The Air Force’s fiscal year 2023 budget request seeks to add $222 million to procure 15 KC-46 tankers, while aiming to retire 13 KC-135s: four from March Air Reserve Base, CA, and nine from Joint Base McGuire-Dix Lakehurst, NJ, a service spokeswoman said.