Although the Air Force originally intended the KC-X tanker competition to be a contest between off-the-shelf aircraft designs—to reduce risk and accelerate fielding—Boeing’s NewGen Tanker met the bill, even though it hasn’t flown yet, said Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz. “The bottom line is, I don’t think that we necessarily mandated a machine that was flying in every respect,” Schwartz told the Daily Report Feb. 25 during an interview. He added, “Clearly, the [Boeing] 767 is an established platform, as is the [Airbus] A330.” Schwartz said both platforms “passed each of the requirements” that were embedded in the KC-X request for proposal, and “both platforms qualified.” So the Air Force based its choice on “other factors, including mission capability [and] lifecycle costs,” he said.
The Air Force will begin its 71st annual Operation Christmas Drop on Dec. 4. The weeklong exercise is a yearly tradition that delivers supplies such as food, fishing equipment, school books, and clothes to remote islands in the Pacific. It is the longest-running Department of Defense humanitarian mission.