Northrop Grumman attempted to silence the rumblings over its announcement that it would team with EADS to proffer the KC-30—an aircraft based on the EADS Airbus A330—as a KC-135 replacement by pointing out a simple fact: If there is to be a competition, it must include an aircraft with components produced in Europe. Of course, as Northrop officials pointed out to reporters at the AFA conference Monday, Congress could say: No competition. That would not sit well with at least one lawmaker—Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.)—who has been dogged in his pursuit of the Air Force and Boeing over their tanker lease deal. (Read “The Tanker Blame Game” here.)
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.