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Air Force releases Bridge Tanker Sources Sought Announcement

Boeing and the 418th Flight Test Squadron are conducting ground effects and fuel onload fatigue testing on the new KC-46A Pegasus. Fuel onload fatigue tests will gather data to characterize the aircraft interaction typically experienced when the KC-46A is flying in receiver formation behind a current KC-135 Stratotanker or KC-10 Extender. While the KC-46's role is to refuel other aircraft, it too may need to be refueled from other KC-10s or KC-135s to extend its range. Fuel onload fatigue testing is the first look at the KC-46 acting in that role. (U.S. Air Force photo/Christopher Okula)

A KC-46A Pegasus prepares to receive fuel from KC-10 Extender with a KC-135 Stratotanker in background. The Bridge Tanker program will bridge the gap to the next Advanced Air Refueling Tanker recapitalization phase, previously referred to as “KC-Z.” (U.S. Air Force photo/Christopher Okula)

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AFB, Ohio (AFLCMC) – The Air Force Life Cycle Management Center issued a Sources Sought Announcement for the Bridge Tanker Program to determine the number of qualified, interested companies capable of providing solutions for the planned, non-developmental tanker recapitalization program.

The Air Force is seeking companies that have the capability to deliver commercial derivative tanker aircraft to supplement the Air Force tanker aircraft fleet at the end of KC-46A production.

The new aircraft will bridge the gap to the next Advanced Air Refueling Tanker recapitalization phase, previously referred to as “KC-Z.” The existing KC-46A firm-fixed price contract is limited to 13 production lots, with the last planned procurement in 2027 and delivered in 2029.

As a commercial derivative aircraft, the Bridge Tanker will be based on existing and emerging technologies with a full and open acquisition competition. Neither developmental stealth nor unmanned capability is planned. 

The requirements for Bridge Tanker are currently being defined and the necessary capabilities will be incorporated into the final Request for Proposal once it is validated through the Department of Defense’s joint staffing process. The Air Force plans to release the final RFP by the end of 2022.

The KC-135 will be 70 years old when the Air Force expects to receive its last KC-46 delivery in 2029, and replacing these vital aircraft continues to be critical to the Air Force mission to project Rapid Global Mobility in today’s strategically competitive environment.