Let’s Not Forget

While the focus of the Air Force’s tanker modernization activities may be on getting the new KC-45A in the field, its KC-10 fleet also needs some attention. In fact, “It is critical to continue with the sustainment and modernization of this unique asset,” Gen. Arthur Lichte, commander of Air Mobility Command, said in his written testimony to the House Armed Services Committee April 1 (see above). USAF flies 59 KC-10s which entered the fleet in the 1980s. They are expected to remain in service into the 2040s until a new tanker replaces them under the notional KC-Z recapitalization program. With the cancellation of the KC-10 aircraft modernization program in 2006 due to its estimated $2.2 billion price tag in the face of more pressing priorities, AMC is now assembling a “de-scoped effort, limited to absolutely essential” obsolescence and mission sustainment issues, Lichte wrote. The KC-10’s boom control unit is the No. 1 obsolescence issue. The seven computers that are the heart of it are no longer in production. “Once available spares are depleted, this system will be unsupportable,” the general writes, noting that “this could occur as early as 2010.” Therefore, AMC, together with Air Force Materiel Command, wants to place the BCU work under contract as soon as possible, he said. The No. 2 obsolescence issue that AMC hopes to resolve by 2015 is the aircraft’s inertial navigation system/flight management system, Lichte said.