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Reiterating the Tanker Imperative: The general whose command will manage the new fleet of KC-45A tankers when it comes onboard next decade reaffirmed the urgency in getting past the current legal protest and moving the tanker program forward. “My hope is that as we go through this process of fielding a new tanker, following the letter of the law, we get through it quickly,” said Gen. Arthur J. Lichte, the commander of Air Mobility Command. “The bottom line is: The warfighter needs a new tanker. Any delays or hesitation are simply pushing the age of the tanker farther and farther out and increasing the risk to our national security.” The Air Force chose Northrop Grumman’s KC-30 tanker design Feb. 29 to replace the oldest of its Eisenhower-era KC-135s. The new platform is now designated the KC-45A. Losing bidder Boeing filed a legal protest with the Government Accountability Office March 11, alleging that USAF’s evaluation was unfairly biased against its KC-767 tanker offering. GAO has 100 days to rule; in the interim, the Air Force issued a stop-work order to Northrop Grumman. USAF wants to avoid the same type of costly and lengthy delays with the new tanker that have stymied its efforts to field a new combat search and rescue helicopter. “This is a matter of national security and we can't lose sight of that as a nation,” said Lichte. “It's critically urgent that we get on with bringing a new tanker into our fleet.” (Includes Air Force report by SSgt. Monique Randolph)