WASHINGTON -- The commander of the Air Force's Air Mobility Command today stressed the high priority his service places on the KC-46A tanker aircraft program.
Air Force Gen. Paul J. Selva discussed progress with the program and stressed its priority in a meeting with Defense Writers Group reporters.
Air Force officials announced award of a $3.5 billion engineering and manufacturing development contract to Boeing Co. for the new tanker in February 2011.
"I'm on the record saying that our No. 1 acquisition priority in AMC -- and it remains the Air Force's No. 1 priority -- is making sure the KC-46 tanker delivers on time, on cost," he said. "And because we have a firm fixed-price contract for the development of that airplane, if we allow ourselves to get into the position where we don't have the funds to pay for the initial development of the airplane, that contract gets reopened."
This would be a bad outcome for the Air Force and for the nation ?- in reverse order, Selva said.
"We'll pay more for the airplane than we know we have to based on the existing contract," he added.
The general said an initial round of site surveys for where the aircraft will be based has taken place, and the critical final design review is scheduled in July.
"We're in source selection for the simulator training devices, which means we're already started into the process of developing the curriculum and deciding how we're going to train the crews that operate the airplane," Selva said.
Selva said a recent decision will enable the Air Force to reap the new tanker's benefits faster than earlier plans projected.
"About six months ago, we finalized a decision to change the crew ratio on the airplane from two-and-a-half to three-and-a-half crews per airplane," he said. "[This] will allow us to use the airplane in greater volume earlier in its lifetime, because it's so much more efficient than the KC-135."
The KC-135 Stratotanker has provided the Air Force's core aerial refueling capability for more than 50 years.