The Plausible Options Are Limited

Rep. Gene Taylor (D-Miss.) asked two senior Air Force officials at a special House hearing what would be their top four preferred options for tanker recapitalization. Lt. Gen. Christopher Kelly, Air Mobility Command Vice Commander, told the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Projection Forces that his preference, from an operations standpoint, is to gain an aircraft able to perform a wide range of missions. For Kelly, that means a larger airplane, which he said has advantages that a medium airplane would not have. Lt. Gen. Donald Hoffman, the Air Force’s military acquisition deputy, favors a new commercial derivative and recommends going with one vendor on the first 100 aircraft to save money. Hoffman also would opt for a medium platform, at least for the first 100. Despite calling retirement of the “costly” KC-135Es “critical” to Air Force plans, Hoffman ventured an E re-engining as his second option and buying a used platform for modification as a “distant” third option.