Making 2013?:

Air Mobility Command boss Gen. Arthur Lichte said that, if all goes well in the KC-X tanker program just awarded to Northrop Grumman/EADS (see above), testing of the first aircraft will begin in 2010, followed by an initial operational capability around 2013. Asked by reporters at a Pentagon award briefing Friday how long a potential protest by losing competitor Boeing might delay the program, USAF’s top acquisition official, Sue Payton, replied that the competition was “incredibly open and transparent.” She added that USAF had “for months and months” told each offeror “where their weaknesses were, where their strengths were,” giving each an opportunity to ensure the Air Force wasn’t overlooking something. However, she acknowledged that “disappointed offerors under statute” may protest, but that may not come until later this month or even into April. Lichte emphasized how critical it is “to get on with this,” noting that, even without a protest, USAF would be flying some 90-year-old KC-135 tankers before all are replaced.