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Contractor sought to build new KC-X Refeuler

WASHINGTON -- The assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition announced Jan. 30 the posting of the KC-X Aerial Refueling Aircraft Request for Proposal to the Federal Business Opportunities Web site, signaling the official launch of the Air Force's No. 1 priority acquisition program.

The announcement comes after an extensive and transparent dialogue between Air Force officials and officials from the office of the secretary of defense, Air Mobility Command, industry and members of Congress.

Sue Payton, the Air Force's senior acquisition executive, said that throughout this entire acquisition process, the Air Force has sought to minimize development risk among differing aircraft manufacturers and types. This RFP is the culmination of those deliberations.

"The Air Force aerial tanker is essential to all Air Force and joint global operations," said Lt. Gen. Donald Hoffman, the military deputy for acquisition. "It allows the joint force to project mobility, strike and surveillance forces anywhere and anytime without relying on intermediate bases for refueling. Tankers put the 'global' in global power."

The KC-X program is the first of three acquisition programs the Air Force will need to replace the entire fleet of aging KC-135 Stratotankers, which have been in service for more than 50 years.

The primary mission of the KC-X will be to provide aerial refueling to United States military and coalition aircraft in the war on terrorism and other missions. However, the Air Force also intends to take full advantage of the other capabilities inherent in the platform, and make it an integral part of the Defense Transportation System.

"From addressing national security threats to supporting rapid global strikes to providing urgently needed humanitarian operations, joint and coalition operations depend upon the rapid global mobility capabilities which the Air Force aerial tanker provides," said General Hoffman.

The RFP stipulates nine primary key performance parameters:

1) Air refueling capability

2) Fuel offload and range at least as great as the KC-135

3) Compliant Communication, Navigation, Surveillance/Air Traffic Management equipment

4) Airlift capability

5) Ability to take on fuel while airborne

6) Sufficient force protection measures

7) Ability to network into the information available in the battle space

8) Survivability measures (defensive systems, Electro-Magnetic Pulse hardening, chemical/biological protection, etc.)

9) Provisioning for a multi-point refueling system to support Navy and allied aircraft

Ms. Payton stressed that the department has gone through a rigorous review process for KC-X and has validated the RFP accurately reflects the requirements as laid out by the warfighter.

The final RFP defines an integrated, capability-based, best-value approach. The RFP includes specific factors for assessing the capability contribution of each offeror. Along with cost and assessments of past performance and proposal risk, these factors provide the source selection authority with means to determine the best value between proposals of significantly differing capabilities and cost.

"The Air Force remains committed to a full and open competition. The KC-X is the Air Force's No. 1 acquisition priority and its acquisition will continue to be conducted in a transparent and deliberate manner," said Ms. Payton.