Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said today he is not predisposed toward any one particular option for Air Force tanker recapitalization such as a split buy or a winner-take-all approach. Instead, he said he is waiting until he has the Department of Defense’s new tanker proposal in front of him and can assess it against other options before offering his view. “I am honestly doing my very best to keep an open mind on the subject,” Levin told the Defense Writers Group in Washington, D.C. Even suggesting that he might favor one approach could create all kind of misimpressions that would make it harder for getting a tanker deal through Congress, he said. “The chances of getting something done are greater if there are a few people—particularly the chairman of a committee who has some jurisdiction—who really are not tilting one way or the other,” he said. When asked, Levin said he does believe that a single-source tanker contract award could survive the wrath of Congress “if the arguments for it are powerful enough, coherent enough, persuasive enough.” But it would be no cake walk, he acknowledged.
Boeing’s receipt of the 10th lot contract award for the KC-46 Pegasus this week leaves just three lots left to complete the Air Force’s buy of the tanker, although a further buy of 75 additional aircraft as a “bridge” to the Next-Generation Aerial-refueling System (NGAS) seems increasingly likely.