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Tanker recapitalization proposal released

By Staff Sgt. C. Todd Lopez

WASHINGTON (Jan. 30, 2007) -- Air Force leaders officially released a request for proposal for a replacement tanker aircraft Jan. 30.

The RFP is the official invitation to manufacturers to begin making offers to build a replacement for the Air Force's aging "Eisenhower-era" fleet of KC-135 Stratotankers, said Sue Payton, the assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition.

"This is a major milestone in fair, open and transparent dialogue that we have been involved in since the request for information was sent out in April of 2006," she said. "We are confident it will allow us to fulfill the Air Force's No. 1 acquisition priority."

The Air Force's No. 1 acquisition priority is a replacement for the KC-135, as laid out late last year by Gen. T. Michael Moseley, the Air Force chief of staff. Other priorities include a new combat rescue helicopter, space-based early warning and communications satellites, the F-35 Lightning II and the next-generation, long-range strike bomber.

Ms. Payton said she expects to have a tanker contract in place before the end of the year, and that competition for the contract will be fair for all involved.

"The RFP has laid the groundwork for a fair and open competition that will ensure a thorough evaluation of any proposal we receive," she said. "We remain committed to a full and open competition. The KC-X is our No. 1 acquisition priority for the Air Force, and we will continue to conduct this competition in a very deliberate and open manner."

Ms. Payton said she expects the Air Force could see the first operational fleet of new tankers by 2013.