Gates Continues to Oppose Split Tanker Buy

By Amy Butler

If there was any confusion about U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates’s position on the possibility of a split buy of Boeing and Northrop Grumman/EADS refueling tankers for the U.S. Air Force, he is taking pains to fix it. “I am laying my body down across the tracks” in opposition to it, he told an audience of officers at the Air War College at Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala., on April 15. The response was vigorous applause. During a press conference a day earlier en route to Fort Rucker, Ala., he said he opposes the introduction of two separate training, maintenance and logistics requirements simultaneously into the fleet. He also said that developing two tankers at once could cost $14 billion over five years, double the price of one. Some lawmakers have seized on the idea of a dual buy as the only politically palatable way to move forward with a KC-X program after repeated false starts and protests. Northrop, which partnered with EADS’ Airbus against Boeing in the last round, has also sounded support for such a compromise.

Photo: DoD

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