Air Force releases final request
Published 5:46 am Monday, February 5, 2007
Last week the Air Force released the long-awaited final KC-X Aerial Tanker Request for Proposa - an important milestone in the tanker replacement program.
The Air Force's RFP is a more than 1,000 page document in which the Air Force defines what it requires in terms of replacing its fleet of tankers that currently refuel the military might of the United States Air Force, Navy, and probably anything else that flies to defend our country.
Refueling tankers are basically flying gas stations - allowing our military to fly anywhere and everywhere around the world without landing - refueling in the air. The average age of these planes is 45 years - many were started when President Truman was in office.
The RFP is expected to result in a contract to replace 179 of about 530 KC-135 tankers in the current fleet and is worth between $30 and $40 billion over the next 15 years. This contract will be the first phase of a multi-phase program that will ultimately replace the entire KC-135 fleet.
The tanker program has been in the news a lot lately, and as you know, almost two years ago, the North American division of European Aeronautics Defence and Space Company selected Brookley Field as the site for its new aerospace engineering center and the site to construct the next Air Force tanker should it be successful in being awarded the contract.
A few months later it was announced that Northrop Grumman - one of our nation's leading defense contractors - would be the prime contractor for this team.
The Northrop Grumman/EADS team is now in a position - along with Boeing - as the two leading companies considering whether to go forward and bid on building the next generation of tankers.
Throughout this acquisition process, I, along with other members of Alabama's congressional delegation, have been in frequent communication with senior Air Force and Department of Defense officials, including Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, in an effort to ensure this tanker procurement formally begins with a fair, level playing field that does not favor one competitor over another.
I am hopeful that both Boeing and Northrop Grumman officials will find themselves in a position to sharpen their pencils and move forward with highly competitive proposals to build the new Air Force tanker.
Will Mobile be successful? That's the $64,000 question - one thing that Sens. Richard Shelby and Jeff Sessions and I have insisted upon - along with Gov. Riley, Sen. John McCain and others outside of Alabama, is there must be a level playing field.
We want a competition so that these two great companies - Boeing and Northrop Grumman - are able to compete on a level playing field. Competition is vitally important to the process and may be the only way we can guarantee that the war-fighter and the taxpayer are receiving the best tanker for the money. We owe our military and our taxpayers nothing less.
For now, the RFP is out - both companies are going over it with a fine-tooth comb, and let