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Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Air Force KC-46A Tanker Aircraft Program

Jeremiah Gertler
Specialist in Military Aviation

On February 24, 2011, the Department of Defense (DOD) announced the Boeing Company as the winner of a competition to build 179 new KC-46A aerial refueling tankers for the Air Force, a contract valued at roughly $35 billion. Prior to the announcement, the program had been known as KC-X.

The KC-46A acquisition program is a subject of intense interest because of the dollar value of the contract, the number of jobs it would create, the importance of tanker aircraft to U.S. military operations, and because DOD’s previous attempts to acquire a new tanker since 2001 had ultimately failed.

DOD’s KC-46A acquisition strategy poses potential oversight issues for Congress, including the following: What are the effects of budget cuts on executability of the KC-46A program? What if any effect will the announced closure of Boeing’s Wichita, KS, plant have on the KC-46 program? What alternatives does the Air Force have to extend KC-135 service life if the KC-46 is delayed? 

FY2013 defense authorization bill:
H.R. 4310, as passed by the House, recommended approving the Administration’s request for $1,815.6 million in research and development funding for the Next Generation Aerial Refueling Aircraft program. S. 3254, as passed by the Senate, recommended $1,728.5 million, $87.1 million less than the Administration’s requested funding level for KC-X. The FY2013 conference report set funding at $1,738.5 million, $77.1 million less than the Administration’s request, citing excess prior-year funds. 

FY2013 DOD appropriations bill:
The House Appropriations Committee, in its report (H.Rept. 112-493 of May 25, 2012), recommended approving the Administration’s request for $1,815.6 million in research and development funding for the Next Generation Aerial Refueling Aircraft program. The Senate Appropriations Committee, in its report (S.Rept. 112-196 of August 2, 2012), recommended $1,738.5 million for the Next Generation Aerial Refueling Aircraft, a reduction of $77.1 million from the Administration request. The explanatory statement accompanying the conference report on H.R. 933 put funding at $1,738.5 million.

Date of Report: May 14, 2013
Number of Pages: 33
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