Repeat After Me, Tankers First

The Air Force simply won’t consider buying any more C-17 transports if it would get in the way of buying replacements for KC-135 tankers, Air Mobility Command chief Gen. Arthur Lichte told reporters Wednesday during AFA’s Air & Space Conference. Lichte said, “We don’t want to take a dollar away from tankers” because the KC-X is such an urgent priority. Boeing has offered a C-17B, able to take off and land on even shorter strips, go further, and land almost anywhere, including pastures and beaches, but Lichte said “right now, I don’t see it fitting in.” AMC wouldn’t want to buy 10 or so of a special variant that would require unique support equipment, he said. However, all bets are off if the C-5 re-engining and upgrade program fails to pay off, in which case USAF probably would need to buy more C-17s, Lichte said. But tanker is king of requirements, he emphasized, calling it “unconscionable” to force crews to fly 50-year-old aircraft with a proven and lengthening record of age-related failures.