The number of aerial tankers in the US military—ranging from Air Force KC-135s to Marine Corps KC-130s—will peak in Fiscal 2016, according to the Pentagon’s newly issued Aircraft Procurement Plan for 2012-2041. The total tanker inventory will increase from 551 in Fiscal 2012 to 574 in Fiscal 2016, then drop suddenly to a steady-state level of between 535 and 542 aircraft through Fiscal 2021. The numbers reflect the retirement of some of the oldest KC-135s, delivery of USAF’s initial KC-46As, and adjustments to the marines’ inventory. (2011 Aircraft Investment Plan)
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.