Not Enough Tankers

The US military does not have enough aerial refueling aircraft to meet demand from all warfighting scenarios it assessed out to 2016, according to the findings of the Pentagon’s new mobility study. The Defense Department currently fields a force of 474 Air Force tankers (415 KC-135s, 59 KC-10s) and 79 Marine Corps KC-130 tankers. This inventory “does not satisfy the peak demands” of two of the three large-scale campaign scenarios assessed in the classified Mobility Capabilities and Requirements Study 2016 that was recently sent to Congress. The study found that the demand for tankers would range from a low of 383 KC-10s/KC-135R-equivalents and 66 KC-130s to a high of 567 KC-10s/KC-135R-equivalents and 79 KC-130s. However, it noted that “a modernized fleet would require fewer aircraft to meet the same demand.” That’s where the new KC-X tanker would help. (MCRS 2016 unclassified executive summary)