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September 24, 2009—Potential contractors and Congress both have 60 days to have a look at the new tanker draft request for proposals and offer comments and suggestions. After that, the Pentagon will release a final RFP, and contractors will have 60 days to respond.

Then the Air Force gets a maximum of 120 days to evaluate the offers—it could take less time—and make an award.

“On this schedule, we expect a contract award around June of 2010,” Deputy Defense Secretary Bill Lynn told reporters Thursday afternoon at the Pentagon.

Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley said that, despite long delays in the tanker program, the plan is still to award a KC-X contract for 179 aircraft, to be followed by KC-Y and KC-Z competitions.

“We need to succeed at this” before pushing for more aircraft, Donley said, and even at best speed, it will take 15 years to conduct the procurement.

The Air Force will want to assess the program again after the bulk of KC-Xs have been delivered, he said.

Under the plan unveiled Thursday, first deliveries would be in 2015, and initial operational capability would be in 2017.

(Also see "Crystal Clear")