The Air Force on Tuesday afternoon released its final request for proposals in the tanker replacement program, saying it followed “an extensive and transparent dialogue” with members of Congress, industry, and DOD officials. The so-called KC-X program is the first of three acquisition efforts the Air Force plans to pursue to replace its entire fleet of elderly KC-135 tankers. On this first effort, there have been two announced competitors—Boeing and a Northrop Grumman-EADS team—but recently Northrop has said it might withdraw, pending its favorable review of the final RFP. Without Northrop, there would be no competition and that might bring down Congressional wrath—again.
Boeing’s receipt of the 10th lot contract award for the KC-46 Pegasus this week leaves just three lots left to complete the Air Force’s buy of the tanker, although a further buy of 75 additional aircraft as a “bridge” to the Next-Generation Aerial-refueling System (NGAS) seems increasingly likely.