USAF Shares Latest Tanker Follow-on Requirements With Industry


Credit: Defense Department

The U.S. Air Force has shared updated requirements with companies interested in competing for a follow-on order to the Boeing KC-46 for perhaps dozens of additional aerial refuelers derived from commercial airliners. 

The request for information (RFI) published on Sept. 15 by the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center includes an updated system requirements document, but the details have been withheld from the public as “controlled unclassified information.”

The RFI is expected to be followed by “industry day” events for Air Force officials to brief potential competitors and solicit feedback. 

Airbus has teamed up with Lockheed Martin to offer the LMXT version of the A330 Multi-Role Tanker Transport against an updated version of Boeing’s 767-2C-derived KC-46. The LMXT is designed to offload about 56,000 lb. more fuel than the current KC-46, but it is not clear that the Air Force has changed the fuel offload requirement for the follow-on production contract.

Both teams are competing for a contract to supply dozens of tankers between the end of production on the KC-X contract in 2029 and the start of production for the Next Generation Aerial Refueling System (NGAS) program in the mid-2030s. 

The Air Force plans to finalize an acquisition strategy for the Tanker Recapitalization contract in 2024. Although Air Force officials have said the follow-on order could number about 75 aircraft, a final decision has not been made.

Steve Trimble

Steve covers military aviation, missiles and space for the Aviation Week Network, based in Washington DC.