Assuming the current legal protest is resolved by mid June, the Air Force expects that the first of its KC-45A tanker test aircraft will be available around June 2010, the general in charge of the US military’s transportation enterprise said May 27. Speaking during at an Air Force leadership forum May 27 in Philadelphia, host to this week’s many Air Force Week festivities, Air Force Gen. Norton Schwartz, commander of US Transportation Command, said, if this schedule holds, the tanker airframes for the first operational KC-45A squadron “will probably be delivered” in 2013. Boeing lodged a protest in March over the Air Force’s choice of the Northrop Grumman-EADS KC-30 model (now designated the KC-45A) instead of its own KC-767 to replace Eisenhower-era KC-135s. The Government Accountability Office is due to rule on the merits of Boeing’s case by June 19 (see below). The tanker issue isn’t the only issue of concern for TRANSCOM and the Air Force, Schwartz said. Just look at rising fuel costs. “The cost of fuel is well over $1 billion over our initial budget projections,” he said. As DOD explores alternative sources of energy, lighter-than-air technologies may well have a place, he said. (Air Force News Agency report by TSgt. Ben Gonzales)
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.