What “Starting Over” Costs: The Air Force spent $116.6 million to run the KC-X competition terminated last week by Defense Secretary Robert Gates, the service reported in response to a query. Presumably, it will cost about as much to re-run the competition from scratch, although USAF and Pentagon officials have said they would hope to salvage as much as possible from the abandoned KC-X effort. That might be wishful thinking, though. If indeed the Air Force next time will state a more definitive need for a large aircraft, Boeing officials have said they would likely propose either a significantly stretched version of the company’s 767 or a variant of its 777 jumbo, either of which would be a radical departure from the KC-767 they originally offered. Northrop Grumman officials haven’t said whether they would switch from their KC-30, a version of the Airbus A330, and will await more details from USAF. However, part of Northrop’s great disappointment with the termination stems from the company’s own considerable investment in developing and flight-testing a boom-type tanker, the largest customer for which is still the US Air Force. Neither company has been willing to divulge its own costs in preparing proposals for the KC-X.
The Air Force overall reduced its size by 120 aircraft in fiscal year 2021, but kept about the same number of fighter, bomber and attack aircraft, according to data supplied by the service. The F-35 fleet saw the biggest increase while the B-1B bomber fleet saw the largest decline.