The US Air Force (USAF) on 19 July made a request for information (RFI) from industry about a ‘Bridge' aerial refuelling tanker capability, formerly known as KC-Y, with the expectation of procuring 140–160 aircraft, plus options, as part of a future full and open competition.
The USAF wants a commercial derivative tanker to bridge a gap between the Boeing KC-46A Pegasus and a future Advanced Air Refueling (AAR) tanker, formerly known as KC-Z. The service is committed to a continuous recapitalisation of the 479 legacy tanker fleet, including the replacement of the ageing Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker fleet. The KC-135 will be 70 years old when the USAF receives its last KC-46A delivery in fiscal year (FY) 2029.
The USAF desires production of the Bridge Tanker to begin no earlier than 2029 and continue at a rate of around 12 aircraft per year until all aircraft are delivered. The USAF, in a question-and-answer document issued on 23 July, said that it also desires the Bridge Tanker to be fully operational, with the first delivered aircraft meeting all requirements, by 2029.
Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and Airbus are expected respondents to the RFI. Both Boeing and Lockheed Martin are responding to the RFI , but on 22 July spokespeople from both companies declined to provide further details. Airbus had not responded to a request for comment at the time of publication.