The Air Force issued a statement yesterday emphasizing the rigorous process it has in place to select a KC-135 tanker replacement aircraft, noting that the evaluation team comprises “a broad spectrum of acquisition and operational professionals.” The service “hand-picked” some 150 experts, according to Terry Kasten, director of the unit at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, responsible for the KC-X acquisition program, to scrub the contractor proposals—Boeing’s KC-767 and Northrop Grumman-EADS KC-30—and to conduct a legal review. Once they are done, their conclusions will go through an independent advisory council assessment before leading to a source selection authority decision and approval from the Defense Acquisition Board. Kasten also says he has “a direct line to senior Air Force legal and contracting advisors” that will help his team “ensure we do everything by the book.” After the failed Boeing tanker lease deal, the Air Force is under the gun to make this work. (For background: The Tanker Blame Game) USAF’s Program Executive Officer for Aircraft, Lt. Gen. Jack Hudson, noted that Air Force leadership has “ensured we proceed in a deliberate and transparent manner, every step of the way.”
The Air Force overall reduced its size by 120 aircraft in fiscal year 2021, but kept about the same number of fighter, bomber and attack aircraft, according to data supplied by the service. The F-35 fleet saw the biggest increase while the B-1B bomber fleet saw the largest decline.