Brevity in Blue

The Air Force issued only a terse statement upon yesterday’s news that Defense Secretary Robert Gates was abandoning plans to try to resolve the KC-X tanker competition before the end of the year (see above). “The Air Force supports Secretary Gates’ decision to withdraw the [request for proposal] and give an incoming Administration a clean start,” said service spokeswoman Lt. Col. Karen Platt. “We look forward to working with [the Office of the Secretary of Defense] to obtain a tanker for the warfighter.” Gates’ decision means that the Air Force will be flying KC-135s for longer. But Gates said, in announcing his action, that he concluded the tanker fleet “can be adequately maintained to satisfy Air Force missions for the near future.” Further, he said, “sufficient funds will be recommended in the [Fiscal 2009] and follow-on budgets to maintain the KC-135 at high mission capable rates.” Air Mobility Command has previously said that, due to questions about their safety, all remaining KC-135Es in active service will be grounded by the end of this month, and the KC-135R versions and KC-10s will have to pick up the slack.