The ABCs of Tanker XYZs:

As we noted in June, the Air Force does plan to buy replacement tankers in three increments—the KC-X contract award will cover the first increment of 179 tankers, replacing the very oldest KC-135s in the fleet. Lt. Gen. Donald Hoffman, USAF’s military acquisition deputy, explained the three-stage approach in a closed door briefing before the House Armed Services AirLand Subcommittee last week. About 2023, the Air Force plans to contract for a second batch of tankers, dubbed KC-Y, and in 2033, it goes for the third or KC-Z batch, ultimately retiring all KC-135s along the way. At no time are tanker purchases expected to exceed $3 billion a year in current dollars; that’s all the Air Force expects to be able to spend (see above). For that money, the service expects to be able to buy between 12 and 18 per year, replacing the entire tanker fleet over 40 years.