USAF seeks commercial derivative tanker

The US Air Force is looking at commercially derived aircraft options for its Bridge Tanker programme to supplement the ongoing delivery of Boeing KC-46A tankers and maintain fleet numbers as the KC-135 Stratotanker (pictured) leaves service.

In a June 17 release the US Air Force (USAF) Life Cycle Management Center stated that the Sources Sought Announcement will determine determine the number of interested companies capable of providing solutions for the planned, non-developmental tanker recapitalisation programme.

KC-135 Stratotanker
The KC-135 Stratotanker will be 70 years old when the Air Force expects to receive its last KC-46 delivery in 2029 US DoD

The US Air Force is seeking companies that have the capability to deliver commercial derivative tanker aircraft to supplement its tanker aircraft fleet at the end of KC-46A Pegasus production.

The new aircraft will bridge the gap to the next Advanced Air Refuelling Tanker recapitalisation phase, previously referred to as “KC-Z.” The existing KC-46A firm-fixed price contract is limited to 13 production lots, with the last planned procurement in 2027 and delivered in 2029.

According to the USAF release as a commercial derivative aircraft, the Bridge Tanker will be based on existing and emerging technologies with a full and open acquisition competition and neither a developmental stealth or unmanned capability is planned.

The requirements for Bridge Tanker are currently being defined and the necessary capabilities will be incorporated into the final Request for Proposal (RfP) once it is validated through the Department of Defense’s joint staffing process. The USAF plans to release the final RfP by the end of 2022.