The KC-135 will be 70 years old when the Air Force expects to receive its last KC-46 delivery in 2029, and replacing these vital aircraft continues to be critical to the Air Force mission.
The Air Force Life Cycle Management Center (AFLCMC) issued a Sources Sought Announcement for the Bridge Tanker Program to determine the number of qualified, interested companies capable of providing solutions for the planned, non-developmental tanker recapitalization program.
The Air Force is seeking companies that have the capability to deliver commercial derivative tanker aircraft to supplement the Air Force tanker aircraft fleet at the end of KC-46A production, AFLCMC said in a news release.
The new aircraft will bridge the gap to the next Advanced Air Refueling Tanker recapitalization 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.
As a commercial derivative aircraft, the Bridge Tanker will be based on existing and emerging technologies with a full and open acquisition competition. Neither developmental stealth nor 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 once it is validated through the Department of Defense’s joint staffing process. The Air Force plans to release the final RFP by the end of 2022.
The KC-135 will be 70 years old when the Air Force expects to receive its last KC-46 delivery in 2029, and replacing these vital aircraft continues to be critical to the Air Force mission to project Rapid Global Mobility in today’s strategically competitive environment.
The KC-46A is the first phase in recapitalizing the US Air Force’s aging tanker fleet. With greater refueling, cargo and aeromedical evacuation capabilities compared to the KC-135, the KC-46A will provide next generation aerial refueling support to Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps and partner-nation receivers.
The aircraft has been in development since Feb. 24, 2011, and its initial flight occurred in Dec. 2014. The current contract, with options, provides Air Mobility Command an inventory of 179 KC-46A tankers. The first KC-46A was delivered to McConnell Air Force Base, Kansas on Jan. 25, 2019.
Photo credit: U.S. Air Force