Splitting the work to supply new aerial tankers between Boeing and Northrop Grumman would likely increase the Air Force’s developmental costs by “somewhere around $7 billion to $14 billion” in just over the next five years, Defense Secretary Robert Gates told reporters April 14 at Ft. Rucker, Ala., during a tour of each service’s war college. He has steadfastly opposed a split buy, saying that those numbers should provide fuel to support a “clean competition” to choose a winner from among the two aerospace giants. He said he’s included money in the Fiscal 2010 budget that will allow the KC-X tanker recapitalization program to commence a fresh competition this summer. “My hope is that we can get on with this, award the contract perhaps early next year, next summer, in 2010, and then get on with building these tankers,” he said. Gates also mentioned that he would share the newly tweaked KC-X requirements “with interested parties, particularly the Congressional delegations of the states that have an interest in this, get their input, and then make our decision about going forward.” (Full transcript)
After a long period in which munitions were almost an afterthought and sacrificed to pay for other priorities, the Air Force needs to focus on them in order to have the right “package” of capabilities for future conflicts, Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr. said June 7.