The military procurement system has been in a morase of corruption, inefficiency and waste for years dating back to when it was radically changed during the Kennedy administration when McNamara came on the scene. I shudder to think of the amount of wasted taxpayer dollars on weapon systems that were either cancelled or procured at the behest of the military. The Air Force tanker program stands as a classic example of my opening sentence, and driven by politicians that are looking out for their own constituencies.
Personally, I thought that "KC-767" offered a really good solution, especially if it was purchased at greater numbers than the original numbers, which I believe was 100 airframes. The Airbus solution was equally a good idea, and perhaps even a "KC-777" that Boeing has also offered. The Air Force is facing a dilemma in it's cargo/tanker force that will be VERY difficult solve in today's fiscal environment. Air Force leaders are faced with some very difficult decisions in how it re-capitalizes itself to face current and future threats. Tactical and strategic platforms that must be tailored to achieve and maintain air superiority, strategic deterence and special operations.
Air Mobilty Command forces (tanker/cargo) face a different set of challenges that have stretched their assests to the limit. With the exception of the C-17, most of the AMC's fleet of tankers and cargo aircraft are getting pretty long in the tooth. Two variables which will exacerbate AMC's challenges for the future is increasing demand for tanker/cargo assets and fleet age with no replacements in sight.
The United States military has relied upon a chain of foward bases and nations that allow our forces either overflight or landing rights. We cannot rely upon this to continue in the future. It is simply a "gun's or butter" equation that cannot be solved without some trade-offs in other parts of the Air Force and DoD budget. This problem isn't something that service chiefs haven't lobbied Congress for years over, and it is very disappointing that no reasonable solution was crafted.
What are the options? An off the shelf commercial aircraft? Well, so far we are zero for two there. A new-build aircraft? Probably not a viable solution, because it will be way too expensive. Leasing aircraft? This is a realistic possibility, and in use by some NATO nations to meet some of their tanker needs. The Air Force needs to maintain it's own organic tanker/cargo capabilty, but I think that it would be cost-effective to move more of the routine cargo/tanker missions into the private sector.
Well, this long-winded and probably not too coherent analysis and problem solving is mercifully over! What do y'all think?
bored in crewroom