ALTHOUGH US military refuelling-aircraft meet current needs, satisfying future requirements may be difficult, concludes a recent US General Accounting Office (GAO) report.

The US Department of Defense operates almost 900 tanker aircraft, including 550 Boeing KC-135s and 60 McDonnell Douglas KC-10s, which also have a cargo role. The GAO questions the long-term serviceability of the 30-40-year-old KC-135s, which have been re-engined with CFM International CFM-56 turbofans. It says that the US Air Force may have to spend over $6 billion in modifications and structural repairs on them.

The USAF says that KC-135 retirements must begin in 2020, but does not plan to begin replacing them until around 2013 - six years later than was planned 12 months ago. The USAF gives the Lockheed Martin C-5A Galaxy replacement higher priority.

The GAO says that a dual-role tanker/transport could fulfil both missions. It adds that the Pentagon should consider replacing the C-5As and KC-135s with one type of multi-purpose aircraft.

Source: Flight International