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Defense Secretary Robert Gates, talking on Tuesday about a crisis in NATO and warning that the anti-military attitudes in many member nations, cited many shortfalls in European NATO capability, including a lack of aerial refueling aircraft.Here's an idea: What if the US took the lead and launched a truly transatlantic tanker aircraft program, fitted from the start for hose and drogue as well as a boom, with a balance of US and European content? Even better - what if you could find an aircraft almost off-the-shelf, its development well under way and ordered by US allies outside NATO? Commonality counts for a lot at the nuts-and-bolts level of refueling. Every aircraft type has to be tested and certificated to refuel from each point on each type of tanker, and then pilots have to be trained and kept current on that tanker aircraft - which is expensive enough for one model of tanker. The result: a US-NATO tanker would be a global standard for Western-allied nations. Gates was also noting shortfalls in airlift, so it would be even better if the tanker had a good cargo capability. Of course, an alternative would be for the US to go its own way and acquire a unique, more limited tanker that nobody else is likely to buy, but that would be silly.
ar99, tankers, gates
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