Air Force Tanker Program.

The program however has difficulty getting off the ground and had undergone several calls for Requests for Proposals (RFPs) as controversies and contentious issues regarding contracts and acquisitions had long riddled. In 2004, the program was compelled to shut down when the main players in the negotiation were revealed to be involved in highly unethical issues and in 2008, the program was re-shelved one more time as one of the parties in the negotiations filed a bidding protest with GAO. At present, the AF prepares for its third attempt to hold a bidding of the project.

The US Air Force tankers are aircrafts whose primary function is to refuel other aircrafts like fighters, bombers, surveillance aircrafts and other planes used by the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps while those aircrafts are airborne. The importance of the tankers is that they obviously give US aircrafts power even beyond US borders because they allow these aircrafts to go longer distances and prolong their airborne time. Aerial fueling capability therefore is of critical importance to the country to sustain its superior aerial firefighting and firepower capability in the world (O’Rourke 2009 1).

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The present tanker fleet of the US Air Force consists of 453 KC-135 Stratotankers (see Fig. 1) built by Boeing, many of which were acquired by the Air Force (AF hereafter) as early as 1957 with the latest batch acquired in 1967. The average age of the Stratotankers is 47 years old. A much younger model, the KC-10 was also acquired by the AF in 1981 but there are only 59 of them (O’Rourke 2009 2-3).

US policymakers had been concerned with the ageing state of the Stratotankers since the 1990s but it wan in 2002 that concrete steps were taken to remedy the situation. US Congress passed the Leasing Authority Act 2002 which authorized the AF to lease 100 Boeing 767s for a period not more than ten years and modify them into aerial fuel tankers.

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