Accelerating the KC-46A tanker program is a top priority for US Transportation Command, said commander Gen. Darren McDew on Thursday. The overall Air Force requirement for tankers is 479, and the service currently plans to procure 179 KC-46As by 2027. McDew told the House Armed Services readiness subcommittee that, given current demand and the possibility of future conflicts, “if we had a thousand air refueling tankers it might be enough.” The immediate problem, however, is the slow speed of the program, which is producing 12 KC-46s per year. “We built 700 [tankers] in seven years in the sixties,” McDew told the committee. If the current rate of KC-46 production does not speed up, he said, the “plan to retire the KC-10s may be revisited.”
NASA, SpaceX, and United Launch Alliance are all preparing to launch their next-gen rockets from Florida’s Space Coast, two of them before the year is out. One is expected to liberate the U.S. launch enterprise from its reliance on Russian-made RD-180 engines, while all three rockets could eventually carry astronaut crews.