Tanking Tankers

One of my last jobs in the Air Force before I retired was in logistics. One of the last test concept meetings I attended was
one on this project. The tanker fleet is stretched pretty thin. Scheduling a tanker for a test mission is a really hard thing to do. Therefore, most test missions have to be under an hour and a half. When we came to the table and were briefed on the effort to lease 767s from Boeing and convert them to tankers, two things came to my mind. First, we really need tankers, this is a great idea. Second, Boeing really needs a contract after losing out on the F-22, what a great idea.

Unfortunately, there were some shenanigans going on to make the deal happen and so now it is dead. The Air Force would have benefited by gaining badly needed tankers without having to go through the cumbersome acquisition process and waiting for Congress to approve the money. Boeing had lost the badly needed F-23 contract to Lockheed’s F-22 (I thought the F-23 should have won because it looked so much cooler.) and was in danger of going out of the military aircraft business. We need more competition in weapons acquisition for large scale projects. (Come to think of it, we also need major reform in that area too. It is extremely complicated and unnecessarily slow. I know, $500 hammer. But wrapping the process in bureaucracy is no cheaper.) Lockheed has the B-2 and F-22 contracts, Boeing needs something. Finally, the next big contender in the tanker arena could be Airbus which is (unfairly) propped up by European government. Other aircraft builders cannot compete with a supplemented program.

I’m glad that Druyun is going to jail, she should. But I think it is really unfortunate that she’s taking a worthy and needed project with her. Dummy. Now we all suffer.

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