McMorris Stresses Need for New Air Refueling Tankers at Armed Services Committee Hearing
(Washington, D.C.) Congresswoman Cathy McMorris (WA-05) today questioned U.S. Air Force Commanders General Norton Schwartz and General Duncan McNabb about the long-term health of the KC-135 air refueling tanker fleet. The Commanders were testifying at an Armed Services Hearing on the Fiscal Year 2007 National Defense Authorization budget request from the United States Transportation Command and Component Commands.
“One of my top priorities is to keep our nation safe, and I am working to ensure that our men and women have the newest and best equipment in order to get the job done,” said McMorris. “Fairchild Air Force Base is currently home to an overstressed active duty fleet of aging air refueling tankers. Current planes are already experiencing problems and we cannot afford to wait another 35 years to get replacement tankers.”
The Air Force predicts that complete replacement of the KC-135 fleet will take between 25-35 years, meaning that some planes will be over 80 years old before they are replaced. Costs of maintaining the aging fleet, which is the oldest in the Air Force, are also increasing. The Air Force estimates that maintaining the KC-135 tankers would cost $46.8 billion through 2040.
General Schwartz and General McNabb both expressed concern over the uncertainty of the aging KC-135s and stated the need for more capable aircraft that can meet the increasing demands of modern threats and environments.