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DOD announces details of tanker lease program

WASHINGTON (USTCNS) --- The approval of the Air Force KC-767 tanker lease initiative was announced May 23 by Edward C. "Pete" Aldridge, under secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics.

The agreement provides for leasing 100 KC-767 aircraft from the Boeing Co. for six years starting in 2006, at a cost of $138 million per aircraft. The initiative also includes a provision to purchase the aircraft for about $4 billion at the end of the lease in 2017.

All things considered, Aldridge said, the Air Force's initiative seemed like the best deal for America.

"We all recognized that one day we were going to have to recapitalize the tanker fleet," he said. "We cannot continue to fly KC-135s forever, and the longer you wait to recapitalize, the more you run the risk of a fleet of those aircraft being grounded for some reason. So we have to get started, and here is an opportunity to start with a minimal amount of up-front Department of Defense dollars, and we can get our aircraft delivered much faster."

The undersecretary added that tankers have become a very important element of U.S. airpower.

"We saw the value of tankers in the recent Iraqi conflict," he said. "Tankers are a central part of our ability to do what we want to do in the military."

Gen. John W. Handy, U.S. Transportation Command commander and Air Mobility Command commander, echoed those sentiments.

"This decision is a welcome first step toward recapitalization of our vital tanker fleet," Handy said. "Aerial refueling is key to ensuring America's global vigilance, reach and power, and the timely addition of these 767s will enable us to maintain and improve that capability. It's a great investment for the Nation, one that will pay dividends for years to come."

In the next step, the secretary of the Air Force will now forward a report to Congressional oversight committees detailing the terms and conditions for review and approval.

The strategy allows the Air Force to begin replacing the KC-135E tanker fleet three years earlier than planned. With an average age of over 43 years, E-model KC-135s make up the oldest weapons system in the Air Force inventory.

The KC-767 will be the world's newest and most advanced tanker. It can offload 20 percent more fuel than the KC-135E and unlike the E-model, can itself be refueled in flight. It will also have the capability to refuel Air Force, Navy, Marine and allied aircraft on every mission.
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