Barring further disruption, KC-X tankers should be operating around 2017.
—Michael C. Sirak
Feb. 26, 2010—Based on the program laid out in the KC-X tanker request for proposal issued on Wednesday, the Air Force plans to take delivery of the first production-version KC-X airframe in Fiscal 2015, according to Air Force spokeswoman Lt. Col. Karen Platt.
And the service anticipates having enough of the new tankers in place in Fiscal 2017—18 aircraft, to be exact—so it can proceed to the review that will decide if the first KC-X unit is ready for operations, she told the Daily Report Thursday.
The Air Force plans to buy 179 KC-X tankers over 13 production lots to replace the oldest if its Eisenhower-era KC-135s. Four of these will be built during the KC-X program's engineering and manufacturing development phase and used as test assets. But after the flight test activities conclude, Platt said they will be modified into the full production configuration.
The first KC-X flight test will depend on the winning contractor's proposal and is expected no earlier than 18 months from contract award, she said. Based on the planned KC-X contract award by the end of this fiscal year—Deputy Defense Secretary Bill Lynn said Wednesday the target date is mid-September—this would mean delivery of the first test aircraft and its inaugural flight sometime in Fiscal 2012, said Platt.
The current schedule calls for the Lot 1 production of seven tankers to start in Fiscal 2013.
Platt said the projected build time per aircraft is about two years, but the exact timing will depend on the contractor's proposal.
Lot 2 production of 12 aircraft would start in Fiscal 2014.
Lot 3 production of 15 airframes would commence the following year, she said.
The winning contractor will be required to deliver 18 aircraft no later than 78 months after the contract award, said Platt.
They are the required assets that must be in place before Air Mobility Command could declare the first KC-X squadron combat-ready.
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