posted on Aug, 10 2012 @ 07:20 AM
There's a new tanker (2015 range or later for service entry), a new bomber (that won't even see first flight until at LEAST 2018 or later), and new
UAVs under development. The problem is that the current fleet is getting old fast, and at the current purchase rate, it will never be replaced. Just
because you're developing new aircraft, doesn't mean that you aren't getting obsolete at the same time. And don't forget that Congress has to
approve the buys, and they have a history of shorting purchases.
But let's take a look at the new tanker, and the new bomber programs. The KC-46, is the FIRST purchase of new tankers. There are still two more
purchases to replace the KC-135. If the KC-X program is any indication, the KC-Y, and KC-Z are going to each take 10+ years just for the bidding
process. But even if they don't, they won't even start the next buy for several more years, which means that we're looking at probably another 15
years for the second buy.
The KC-135 average age is currently approaching 50. The current mentality is that "they aren't falling from the sky, they're good enough for
another 30 or 40 years." The KC-46 will be bought around 100 aircraft. It won't be a one to one replacement, so we'll retire more than 100
KC-135s, but that leaves a lot more to go. By the time it's retired, it will be approaching the age of the B-52.
The new bomber won't even replace anything. It's going to compliment that current bomber fleet. It's also going to be a medium bomber, as
compared to the heavy payloads of the current bombers. The design isn't even going to be finalized for years, which means another 20+ years of
development for that one too. All the while, our current bombers are just aging and developing problems as they do.