AMC, Industry Discuss Privatized Aerial Refueling

Air Mobility Command officials recently met with more than a dozen companies to figure out how the Air Force could use privately owned refueling aircraft to take on certain missions, freeing up USAF tankers for more training and operations.

The command on Dec. 17 brought together 14 companies and 40 total participants at Scott AFB, Ill., to discuss the possibility of contracting out “boom-type air-to-air refueling” for training, test and evaluation, foreign military sales and fighter refueling missions, according to an AMC statement.

The discussion aimed to figure out how long it would take for companies to begin and how many aircraft they can provide, and identify any barriers to that process, the command said.

AMC is facing an aerial refueling shortfall as it brings on the next-generation KC-46, which is long delayed and still faces problems with its remote vision system that it needs to refuel. AMC boss Gen. Maryanne Miller said this fall that it will take at least three to four more years until KC-46s can be deployed because of “category one” deficiencies, particularly lingering problems with the RVS.

In the meantime, AMC wants to keep its current tankers around longer.

“If the KC-46 is delayed, we will continue to work with the Air Force. I’d love to slow down the [KC-135] retirement because I have to keep booms in the air,” Miller said.

AMC officials have said privatized refueling would be limited to domestic missions, not overseas operations. Using contract tankers for test work and other missions would make more USAF tails and aircrews available to participate in operations or to log training hours.

There is no set plan for the Air Force to hire private refueling aircraft. Information gathered during the industry day will help “identify any areas for change to inform a potential performance work statement,” AMC said. The industry day was first reported by Defense News