What tanker shortfall?

The US military has 93 fewer aerial refueling aircraft than it needs, yet avoids describing the gap as a “shortfall” in a self-published report specifically aimed at identifying capability deficits, according to a new report by the US Government Accountability Office (GAO).

The GAO report is a critique of the Mobility Capabilities Requirements Study-2016 (MCRS-16), which published an unclassified executive summary earlier this year. The study considered how the US military’s mobility fleet is prepared to handle three possible scenarios. In the most challenging set-up — fighting an air/naval campaign simultaneously with managing a homeland defense “event” and a separate capaign against insurgents — the study called for a force of 646 tankers, but the DOD has only 553, including KC-130Js. This seems to imply a tanker shortfall.

“However,” the GAO’s auditors write, “DOD officials responsible for the report told us that a tanker shortfall does not exist despite the language used in the report.”

4 Responses to What tanker shortfall?

  1. Znapel 9 December, 2010 at 2:35 am #

    …or have enough to fight an ongoing insurgency in two countries and hold a large training exercise….


    Oh well, maybe in 20 years we’ll have some new ones to help out…


  2. geogen 9 December, 2010 at 9:06 am #

    Not surprisingly there is no stated tanker shortfall as described by DoD. This might be due to rapid reduction of Nav/AF Tacair force structure, bomber fleet and some imminently revised requirement for far fewer F-35s by default (higher expected costs (well, GAO expected them at least) and/or reduced future budgets).

    Unfortunately, there would most likely be the biggest challenge in AF’s procurement budget, via trying to make $8bn+ per yr FRP F-35 buys in addition to a major tanker acquisition – all when defense budgets will at best be losing buying power (merely frozen). Highly probable though, will unfortunately be actual near-term defense budget reductions – from moderate to significant.

  3. S O 9 December, 2010 at 1:49 pm #

    Both figures are insanely high.

  4. Distiller 9 December, 2010 at 2:37 pm #

    Are they counting buddy-buddy sets? :-)
    Not sure including KC-130 in such a list makes a lot of sense.

    In any case those are serious numbers that will not be sustainable. The shrinking tacair fleet will relieve the pain somewhat, more so would help reducing the amount of tankers tacair uses. But 450 or so large loitering jet tankers will be needed, and a good third of them should be (unmanned?) LO platforms to support LO strikers.

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