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Looking Ahead: The Air Force has earmarked slightly more than $12 billion from Fiscal 2011 to Fiscal 2015 for the KC-X tanker, its top acquisition priority, according to service budget officials and documents. This total includes development and test activities, procurement of the initial batch of aircraft, and some military construction to support the new tanker fleet. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Wednesday on Capitol Hill that the selection of the winning tanker design is expected "in the summer." Boeing is expected to submit a bid. We’re still waiting to see whether Northrop Grumman remains in the contest after USAF issues the final version of the request for proposals sometime soon. The Air Force would like the first operational KC-X unit to be available in 2017. (See Crossing that Tanker Bridge above)