The Air Force knows very well that it’s under heavy pressure to perform in the re-competition of the KC-X tanker, Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz told reporters Tuesday. As Air Force Secretary Michael Donley said Monday, Schwartz said he expects a draft request for proposals shortly. Schwartz also acknowledged that competitors may protest even the RFP—without waiting for the competition to even start. They’re free to do so, he said, but filing a protest doesn’t mean it will succeed. “Do you think we’d put an RFP on the street that wasn’t foolproof?” Schwartz asked rhetorically. He said that, given his druthers, he’d like the Air Force to be in charge of the KC-X procurement, but it will be up to Defense Secretary Robert Gates to decide if USAF will be trusted with the program. Schwartz also bristled at the suggestion that the Air Force has not communicated what it’s thinking to the prospective KC-X competitors. “I think Jim Albaugh and Ron Sugar and Paul Meyer and others will tell you that there’s been far better communication than was previously the case,” he said.
U.S. Air Force F-35s and F-22s regularly deploy deep into the Pacific region from Alaska, Utah, and Hawaii. In the future, though, the head of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command would like to see the Air Force permanently station fifth-generation aircraft west of the international date line—closer to China.