Complex Tradeoffs for New Tanker:

The Lexington Institute has issued a new report succinctly stating the case for replacing the Air Force’s elderly tanker fleet as quickly as possible—and providing insight into the “most important questions bearing upon selection” of a replacement tanker. Authored by Air Force Magazine contributing editor Rebecca Grant, a Lexington research fellow, and Loren Thompson, Lexington chief operating officer, the 20-page report acknowledges that the recapitalization of USAF tankers will “stretch over the next 30 years and could turn our to be one of the largest procurement programs in US history.” Unlike a recent tanker analysis of some 1,900 pages that provided a too broad recommendation, this report poses some “tighter parameters” to narrow the choice. Among its conclusions: the demand for aerial-refueling services will grow, with varied mission requirements; tankers rarely offload their entire capacity (making a strong counter argument against bigger is better); the necessity of forward basing favors a medium-sized tanker.