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With the heavy pace of operations in support of the war on terrorism, the Department of Defense (DOD) and the Air Force have become increasingly concerned about their aging aerial refueling aircraft. We last reviewed the aerial refueling fleet in 1996 and found that KC-135 aircraft were aging and becoming increasingly costly to maintain and operate. In December 2001, we began new work on the Air Force's requirements for refueling aircraft. However, we suspended our work several times to provide testimony and other products on the condition of the current fleet and Air Force plans to accelerate replacement. We were asked to review (1) the extent to which the current fleet has met aerial refueling needs, and the cost and effort to operate and sustain the fleet, (2) DOD's current refueling requirements, and (3) options to meet future aerial refueling needs.

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Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of Defense To provide a current, comprehensive roadmap to guide long-term replacement of the current tanker fleet, the Secretary of Defense should conduct a new, validated requirements study to determine the current and projected aerial refueling requirements.
Closed - Not Implemented

Recommendation status is Closed - Not Implemented.

DOD completed a Mobility Capabilities Study in 2006. However, GAO had concerns about this study and urged decision makers to exercise caution when using the Study. This study did not address the tanker issue. MCS 2006, a follow-on study, may have a tanker component; however, that study is not complete. Nevertheless, DOD is currently evaluating proposals submitted for a new tanker and expects to award a contract by Jan. 2008 for the first planes, without further studies being done.
Department of Defense The Secretary of Defense should direct that the Air Force's planned analysis of alternatives be a comprehensive study of all reasonable options, including using contractor-provided aerial refueling services to meet some portion of its aerial refueling needs.
Closed - Implemented

Recommendation status is Closed - Implemented.

DOD conducted an analysis of alternatives for the tanker replacement, but rejected the option of contractor-provided air refueling services to meet some portion of its needs.

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