The House Appropriations defense subcommittee has included $440 million for the Air Force replacement refueling tanker in its version of the Fiscal 2010 defense spending bill.
Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.), the subcommittee chair says getting the replacement tankers going “was my biggest priority.” Murtha previously suggested splitting the program between competitors Boeing and a Northrop Grumman-EADS team to get the oft-delayed program moving and the Eisenhower-era tankers replaced. But now he says he’s leaving that decision to the Defense Department, although the bill “encourages” the DOD to produce more than one aircraft a month.
“It’s important to build three a month,” says Murtha, who worries the Pentagon’s planned 12-tankers a year production target won’t be fast enough to replace the aging aircraft. “But we leave it up to them,” he adds.
Photo: Courtesy of Rep. Murtha’s office
Meanwhile, my colleague, AVIATION WEEK Senior Military Editor Amy Butler reports the Pentagon is again delaying the release of the long-awaited draft request for proposals (RFP) for the tanker competition. It had been expected to be out this summer.
“This may go into the fall because we want to make darn certain we get this right,” Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell told a July 15 press briefing.
The Pentagon has yet to decide which DOD official will be tapped to oversee the competition. After previous management foul-ups, Defense Secretary Robert Gates is weighing his options. Another wrinkle: the Air Force still lacks an acquisition executive, and there’s been no indication one will be nominated any time soon. Morrell says that decision will likely be announced when the draft RFP is issued.
The Northrop Grumman-EADS North America team will propose an Airbus A330-based design, while Boeing is keeping its options open with the 767 and 777 as platforms.