When Will KC-X Be Ready for Use?:

The timeline next decade for declaring the Air Force’s new aerial refueling aircraft ready for combat will depend on the discretion of the Air Mobility Command commander at the time, according to a senior USAF general. “We don’t have a mark on the wall that says here is an IOC date,” Lt. Gen. Donald Hoffman, USAF’s top uniformed acquisition official, told reporters on Feb. 15. Air Force budget documents for Fiscal 2009 project that the KC-X fleet will reach initial operational capability between the end of Fiscal 2013 and mid Fiscal 2014. But ultimately, Hoffman said, the in-service date will be “AMC’s call,” once aircraft are available and the aircrews and maintainers are trained and the logistics infrastructure is in place. “There is flex there,” he said, adding that the future AMC boss “at some time point in the future, will say, we are IOC.” Hoffman continued: “If he is comfortable saying, ‘I am sending one tanker forward to do business’ … and he wants to declare IOC, then that could happen. If he says, ‘No, I want to see a squadron size’—kind of like what we did on the F-22—that’s a different number.” The date will also depend on the plan put forth in the winning offeror’s bid, Hoffman said. Boeing is proposing its KC-767 while the Northrop Grumman/EADS team is competing the KC-30 in the multi-billion-dollar tanker contest. The announcement of the winner could come by the end of the month, USAF officials have said. “We have allowed the vendors to bid back to us their notion of schedule,” Hoffman said. “So their proposals back will allow a little bit of float based on their view of risk. Obviously, if they move to the right, their risk is lower. But if they move too far to the right, they are probably not a responsive vendor. Or they can be more responsive to be more competitive and come to the left, but that increases risk.”