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Civilian contract air refueling: the ability to project and sustain military power over vast distances is a basic requirement of deterrence. (Innovative or Insane?).


Simply put, America's National Security Strategy, built on the imperative of world-wide engagement, demands nothing less than the best global transportation system the world has ever known, one capable of projecting U. S. strength and resolve--anywhere, anytime.

General Charles T. Robertson, Jr (1)

The ability to project and sustain military power over vast distances is a basic requirement of deterrence-the first line of our national security. (2) General Charles T. Robertson, Jr, commander of US Transportation Command (USTRANSCOM), stressed this point when he noted the importance of rapid global mobility to the nation's ability to project and sustain military power. (3) Air refueling is a force multiplier inherently critical to achieving the rapid global mobility described by General Robertson. As a force multiplier, it bridges the gap between the continental United States (CONUS) and various theaters of operation, accelerating the deployment cycle and reducing dependency on forward staging bases and host-nation support.

While deterrence is the first line of national security, the ability to fight and win, regardless of the level of conflict, is the bedrock of our national security. (4) Air refueling's second role, force enhancement, is critical to military activities in this regard. As a force enhancer, it extends the range, payload, and loiter time of combat and combat support forces, allowing a variety of combat aircraft to attack strategic and tactical targets, deep in an adversary's territory, with greater payloads. These unique capabilities, force multiplication and force enhancement, make air refueling an indispensable military resource.

Despite their importance to national security, air-refueling assets have dwindled. A June 2000 General Accounting Office (GAO) report on military readiness concluded the Department of Defense (DoD) is 19 percent short of the air-refueling capability required to execute wartime plans. (5) Additionally, the Air Mobility Command's (AMC) Air Mobility Strategic Plan 2000 identifies two deficiencies directly related to air-refueling capabilities. (6) The first is increased depot-maintenance cycle time for the aging KC-135 tanker fleet, and the second is the unknown service life of the KC-135 airframe. (7) AMC planners predict a need to begin retiring KC-135s in fiscal year(FY) 2013. Currently, there is no replacement tanker on the drawing board or in the budget.

These shortfalls have spawned the question: is it feasible and/or desirable for the Air Force to pursue a civilian contract air-refueling (CCAR) capability?

Civilian contract air refueling is a unique concept that presents a near-term solution to the air-refueling shortfall. The Air Force could realize three advantages from pursuing a CCAR capability. First, it would fill the gap in projected deficiencies--now and in the future. Second, it would give receiver units greater opportunity to maintain currency and proficiency in air-refueling operations. Finally, it would enhance air-refueling flexibility and improve airpower employment effectiveness.

Air Refueling--A National Resource

No single innovation of recent times has contributed more to airpower flexibility than the aerial tanker....

Major General Perry B. Griffith (8)

Air Force Doctrine Document (AFDD) 2-6.2, Air Refueling, summarizes the importance of air refueling to power projection and employment: "Air refueling, when properly employed, enhances, enables, and multiplies the strategic, operational, and tactical effects of any air operation." (9)

Air-Refueling Doctrine

Air and space power employment is guided by the principles of war and tenets of airpower, implemented through core competencies. Airmen must understand these fundamental beliefs as they apply to air and space power.

Air Force Doctrine Document 1 (10)

Air refueling provides the capability to increase levels of mass, surprise, economy of force, and security and concentrates more assets for offensive or defensive operations. (11) The overall effect of this capability is to enhance and multiply airpower employment capabilities. For example, air refueling an attack aircraft en route to its target allows greater payloads, which enhances the ability to achieve mass and concentration of firepower at any level in an adversary's battlespace. It also allows attacking aircraft to use indirect target approaches, terrain masking, and multiple axes of attack to create surprise. Air refueling other support aircraft increases time aloft and decreases the number of aircraft and aircrews needed to build an air bridge or provide 24-hour command and control capability, thus achieving economy of force. It also enhances maneuver by providing additional fuel to attacking aircraft, which generates a valuable maneuver advantage during air-to-air engagements, while putting the adve rsary at a distinct disadvantage. Air refueling mobility airlift aircraft presents another opportunity to achieve maneuver flexibility. Increasing the range and cargo load of these aircraft increases flexibility by allowing commanders to insert troops and cargo into theaters at decisive moments. Ultimately, this allows maximum use of resources and multiplies the force available, allowing greater persistence in engagements, operations, and campaigns. Finally, because air refueling increases range, airpower assets can be based beyond the effective range of enemy weapons. This increases security and frees up assets for offensive or defensive operations.

Air Force Core Competencies

Six elements comprise Air Force core competencies: rapid global mobility, precision engagement, global attack, air and space superiority, information superiority, and agile combat support. Air-to-air refueling capabilities both enable and are enabled by these competencies as shown in Table 1.

Air Refueling in Action

Air refueling means we can get anywhere very quickly, take off anywhere, attack anywhere and return anywhere, without landing en route. No spot on the globe is more than 20 hours flying from combat aircraft stationed in the United States.

General Merrill A. McPeak (13)

In June 1948, the Strategic Air Command stood up the first squadron of KB-29M Superfortress tankers and created a unique force capability for worldwide power projection--a completely new military capability. (14) As technology advanced, KB-29s were replaced with KC-97s, and in 1957, KC-135s began replacing the KC-97s. The KC-135 quickly became the workhorse of the tanker force and remains so today--44 years after its initial delivery. Teamed with a growing fleet of B-52s, KC-135s became the backbone of America's nuclear deterrent. While tanker aircraft provided the ultimate force-enhancement capability for Cold War nuclear deterrence, they also have been actively involved in every humanitarian and combat operation since Vietnam.


While the first combat use of air refueling occurred during the Korean War, Vietnam was the first major combat operation that clearly demonstrated the utility of air refueling. In just a little more than 9 years, KC-135s flew 194,687 sorties, conducted 813,878 inflight refuelings, transferred 8.9 billion pounds of fuel, and logged 911,364 flight hours. (15) In an article saluting air refueling's contribution to the prosecution of the Vietnam War, John L. Frisbee wrote:

They made it possible for Guam-based B-52s to reach their targets and for fighters to range from one end of Vietnam to the other, greatly increasing the flexibility of tactical air operations. Fighter strikes in the northern route packages were totally dependent on the tankers. (16)

Lieutenant General Charles Homer, Vietnam veteran and commander of the Coalition Air Forces during the Gulf War, noted:

I think in any recent war, if you ask any fighter pilot who his hero is, he'd probably say the air-to-air tanker guys. I myself can remember in Vietnam being over Hainan Island, almost out of gas, and here comes a KC-135, way up north of where he ought to be because of the enemy threat.... (17)

Tanker employment procedures matured throughout Vietnam and the Cold War, paving the way for the most intensive operational use of air refueling to date--the Gulf War. (18)

Gulf War (19)

The buildup and execution of the Gulf War relied on air refueling--in fact, 60 percent of all attack sorties required tanker support. It allowed the rapid deployment of fighter aircraft and their support equipment to the theater; more than 1,000 fighter aircraft, loaded with munitions, deployed nonstop from the United States to Southwest Asia. Deployments covered 6,900 nautical miles, took 15 hours of flight time, and required 7 to 15 air refuelings. The ability to deploy nonstop allowed the first F-15s to be on alert in Saudi Arabia the day after notification and five fighter squadrons to arrive in the region within 5 days. During the 5-month buildup to and 43-day execution of the Gulf War, Air Force tankers flew 141,000 hours, offloaded 1.2 billion pounds of fuel, completed 85,000 refuelings, and transported almost 17,000 passengers and 6,500 tons of cargo. (20) The Gulf War Air Power Survey Summary report clearly details the importance of air refueling to the buildup and execution of the Gulf War.

Air operations without the extensive support of aerial tankers would have changed character the war... initial deployments to the theater would have been delayed... all dimensions of the air campaign would have been altered, [including] the number of sorties a day as well as the operating bases used... aerial tankers facilitated the speed and mass of the attacks and provided a margin of safety in air operations ... the ability to refuel extensively permitted operations from distant, secure bases and provided a buffer of inestimable worth. (21)

In addition to refueling coalition attack aircraft, tankers refueled the entire array of airborne warning, reconnaissance, targeting, and command and control aircraft that provided 24-hour coverage throughout Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm.

Post-Gulf War

Since the Gulf War, air-refueling support has been used extensively for a wide range of operations. In 1995, tankers flew 383 Operation Deliberate Force support sorties that made the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's 17-day air campaign possible. These air-refueling flights comprised nearly 11 percent of the total missions flown during Deliberate Force. (22) More recently, tankers flew 4,347 sorties, offloading 188,100,000 pounds of fuel to more than 17,750 receivers during Operation Allied Force. (23)

A State of Emergency

If there were no falsehoods in the world, there would be no doubt, if there were no doubt, there would be no inquiry; if no inquiry, no wisdom, no knowledge, no genius.

--Walter Savage Landor (24)

Air-refueling capability has dwindled despite its proven importance to national security. The GAO concluded the DoD is 19 percent short of the air-refueling capability required to execute wartime plans. (25) As air-refueling shortfalls approach a state of emergency, visionaries are focused on a long-term solution: the next generation tanker, dubbed KC-X, which is scheduled to enter the inventory in 2013. However, the shortfall exists today and needs to be addressed with a near-term solution.

Analyzing the-Air Refueling Emergency

The Defense Department would need a one-third increase in budget simply to maintain the forces and capability it already has.

--Secretary of the Air Force F. Whitten Peters (26)

Four factors complicate AMC's long-term solution: force structure determination, one-for-one KC-135 replacement, time line for KC-X delivery, and unknown KC-135 service life, all of which open the door for a unique near-term solution-civilian contract air refueling.

Quantifying Air-Refueling Capability

Current air-refueling capability is defined by two measures of effectiveness: the number of tankers required and amount of fuel offload required. Historically, boom-intensive operations make the number of tankers available the most critical measure of effectiveness during the employment or strike phase of a campaign. Figure 1 shows AMC's current and forecasted air-refueling capability as a function of aircraft availability.

As Figure 1 depicts, there are 547 KC-135s and 59 KC-l0s in the Air Force inventory. In 2013, AMC expects to begin replacing KG-135s with KG-Xs on a one-for-one basis, keeping the overall number of tankers at approximately 600.

During the deployment phase of operations, fuel available for offload is the critical measure of effectiveness because CONUS-based fighting forces require large fuel onloads to fly nonstop to distant theaters of operation. Figure 2 shows AMC's current and forecast air-refueling capability as a function of fuel offload available.

As Figure 2 depicts, the current offload capacity is 120 million pounds of fuel per day. Further, it was assumed that offload capability will increase in 2013 when KC-Xs replace KG-135s on a one-for-one basis.

Evaluating Current and Future Air-Refueling Capability

The tanker fleet must be able to support the requirements for both fuel offload and aircraft availability. According to a June 2000 GAO report on military readiness, the KC-135 fleet falls below the required mission capability (MICAP) rates for ensuring execution of wartime plans. In fact, the GAO's findings state KC-135s maintained a 67-percent MICAP rate for execution of wartime plans as opposed to the 85-percent MICAP requirement. While this rate is significantly lower than the requirement, AMC officials claim they could implement management practices to improve mission capability. They cited deferring depot maintenance, accelerating aircraft through their final days of depot maintenance, and flying some aircraft with missing or broken parts, which would not affect flight safety but would normally make them not mission capable (MC), as practices that could improve MICAP rates. While these actions would improve the MICAP rates, the length of time they could be sustained and the extent to which they would co unter the nearly 20-percent shortfall are not quantified by AMC officials. (29)

Table 2 and Figure 3 show the Kc-135 MC rate of 67 percent, which, when coupled with the KC-l0's 88-percent MC rate, still leaves AMC 84 aircraft short of wartime plan requirements.

The low MC rates for KC-135s are attributed to two factors: increased depot-level maintenance cycle times and availability of spare parts. Since 1991, depot-level maintenance cycle times have doubled. Secretary Peters described the dilemma to Washington reporters: "... 40% of the 40-year old KC-135R tanker fleet is down for repairs at any given time... it takes a year to get a KC-135 through depot maintenance because of all the age-related problems discovered during the periodic overhauls." (32) Shortage of spare parts has plagued KC-135 operations for nearly a decade. General Michael Ryan, Air Force Chief of Staff, addressed the issue before the Senate Armed Services Committee in September 2000, "A lack of parts permeates several aspects of readiness: MC rates, cannibalization rates, and added work-hours for our people who try to meet mission demands without the equipment that they need." (33)

Force Structure

* KC-10. The newest aircraft in the air-refueling fleet is the KC-10, with an average age of 13 years. The 59 KC-l0s comprise only 10 percent of the Air Force tanker fleet but, because of their large offload capability, account for 33 percent of the total available offload capability. In addition to the KC-l0's air-refueling role, it also comprises 12 percent of the total military organic airlift capability. The crew ratio for the KC-10 is 2.0 for active duty units and 1.5 for associate reserve units. There are no plans to replace the KC-l0 through FY25.

* KC-135. With an average age of 41 years, the KC-135 is one of the oldest aircraft in the Air Force inventory. The 547 KC-135s make up 90 percent of the Air Force's tanker fleet but account for only 67 percent of the available fuel offload capability. The crew ratio for CONUS-based, active duty KC-l35 units is 1.36. For active duty, Air National Guard, and Air Force Reserve Command forces outside the CONUS, the crew ratio is 1.27. AMC is planning to begin KC-135 replacement in FY13. The current AMC force structure plan is presented in Figure 4.

Force Structure Determination

Despite the value of tankers to airpower projection and engagement, a rather indirect approach is used to determine the tanker force structure. AMC's Air Mobility Strategic Plan 2000 highlights the shortfalls of this approach:

The tanker requirements study justified the current tanker force structure and identified significant shortfalls in both aircraft and aircrews. This study was based on the requirement statement found in the FY99-03 Defense Planning Guidance (DPG). Unfortunately, the air-refueling requirement was omitted from the FY00-05 and FY01-05 DPG. This omission also eliminated the basis used for determining the tanker requirement.

The current FY01-05 DPG directs the Air Force to program "to sustain at least the current air-refueling support forces (KC-10 and KC-135 aircraft) through the FYDP (Future Years Defense Plan) period." This document no longer contains an actual "requirement" but a fiscally constrained statement that equals the current capability. Primarily due to a large number of PMAI (Primary Mission Aircraft Inventory) aircraft (547 KC-135s and 59 KG-l0s), it is widely assumed that tanker support will be available for all contingencies. However, depending upon the scenarios addressed, previous studies have identified significant capability shortfalls in both aircrews and aircraft. (35)

One-for-One Replacement

AMC planners assume a one-for-one replacement of the KC-135 with the KC-X. While a large requirement for aircraft availability exists, no aircraft replacement in recent history has been procured on a one-for-one basis. In fact, the actual procurement numbers of the KC-10, B-1, B-2, and C-17 have fallen well short of the numbers the Air Force said it needed. Robert Wall, in his article "USAF Reviews KC-135 Life Expectancy," noted, "The number of KC-Xs the Air Force would buy to replace the more than 500 KC-135s is still undetermined." (36) Brigadier General Paul W. Essex, who oversees airlift and tanker acquisition programs, is wrestling with the KC-X procurement issue. He believes the KCX will be more efficient than the KC-135, allowing fewer aircraft to provide a greater amount of offload availability; "a new aircraft would be more efficient and allow for a higher utilization rate, which makes a one-for-one replacement unlikely." Yet, General Essex recognizes the need for booms in the air, which drive a larg e tanker fleet for aircraft availability. "A relatively large number of aircraft would be required because worldwide tanker support couldn't be accommodated with a small fleet." (37) General Robertson, addressing the House Armed Services Readiness Subcommittee in October 2000, emphasized the availability issues that arise when a large force is replaced by a smaller one: "Even though tonnage capabilities remain close to the same, we lose tremendous flexibility with so many fewer tails. The 135 C-17s can be only in half as many places as 270 C-141s." (38) The plan presented in AMC's Air Mobility Strategic Plan 2000 fails to account for the possibility that the KC-135 will not be replaced on a one-for-one basis by the KC-X and should investigate a solution that accounts for this very likely contingency.

Time Line for KC-X Delivery

AMC's Air Mobility Strategic Plan 2000 presents a KC-135 replacement model that assumes the design, testing, procurement, and training cycles for the KC-X will be complete by FY13. While replacing the KC-135 is near the top of the Air Force's priority list, a procurement cycle of this proportion has not been accomplished, in this short a time, for any major weapon system in recent history. As Secretary Peters pointed out, "We have no significant replacement programs on the books for our aging tankers." (39) Given the magnitude of this undertaking, AMC needs to account for the likely contingency that the KC-X will not enter service in FY13.

Unknown Service Life

Currently, the service life of the KC-135 is unknown. AMC's Air Mobility Strategic Plan 2000 points out that the major limiting factor for structural service life of the KC- 135 is corrosion. (40) The Air Force is conducting an economic, service-life study because previous studies failed to include corrosion as a factor. As a result of this study, AMC may have to accelerate the retirement of the KC-135 fleet and procurement of the KC-X. (41) Additionally, the current AMC replacement plan counts on the KC-135's continuing in service until FY40. In light of current plans, which indicate half the tanker force will still be KC-135s in FY25, AMC's retirement plan will need updating once the valid service life of the KC-135 is established.

Operations Tempo and Crew Manning

The combination of increased operations tempo and the lowest manning authorizations of any major weapon system causes problems for both retention and execution of wartime plans. At Grand Forks AFB, North Dakota, for example, KC-135 crews are deployed, on average, 137 days per year. This can aggravate crew-retention problems since crews are required to be away from their families for extended periods. Crew manning and operations tempo not only cause retention problems but also affect wartime plan execution. According to Lieutenant Colonel Scott Wilhelm, chief of the Modeling Branch in the AMC Office of Studies and Analysis, current KC-135 crew manning will leave the Air Force unprepared to meet wartime demands, "There would not be enough crews to do what we want to do." (42) During Operation Allied Force, the Air Force had to resort to an early presidential callup of KC-135 crews because there were not enough active-duty crews to meet the need. In fact, four reserve tanker units were activated under the Presid ential Selective Reserve Gallup to execute a 78-day air campaign. (43)

Summarizing the Air-Refueling Emergency

The previous discussion presents two factors critical to understanding the air-refueling emergency. First and foremost, the air-refueling shortfall is now. The KC-135 is an extremely old airframe, depot-level maintenance takes more than a year, aircraft availability is decreasing, and MC rates are falling. Second, the shortfalls in aircraft availability will continue after the KC-X is purchased. In all likelihood, AMC will not receive a one-for-one exchange for KC-135s, and the change out will not be instantaneous. Therefore, even if the KC-X delivers an increase in efficiencies that leads to greater fuel availability for the deployment phase of operations, it will not solve the aircraft availability issues associated with the employment phase of operations. Furthermore, KC-135s will still account for half the tanker fleet in 2025, and the problems associated with its maintainability will continue to be persistent. These factors necessitate a near-term solution to the air-refueling emergency.

Civilian Contract Air-Refueling: Innovative or Insane?

The single greatest power in the world today is the power to change. The most recklessly irresponsible thing we could do in the future would be to go on exactly as we have in the past ten or twenty years.

Karl W. Deutsch (48)

The most significant oversight in AMC's plans for addressing the air-refueling emergency is a failure to develop a near-term solution. The shortfall exists today, it will not improve tomorrow, it might get worse before the next generation tanker is delivered, and it is likely the shortfall will not improve entirely after the next-generation tanker is delivered. Secretary Peters described his concerns:

We have no significant replacement programs on the books for our aging tankers. It is not that we aren't going to have the tankers immediately, but what we are seeing on the KC-135 fleet are what appears to be an increasing mission-incapable rate due to technical surprises. ... These are the kinds of problems, which can put a whole fleet down, or 200 aircraft down overnight for a period of time and those are the kinds of worries we have. (45)

Solving the Air-Refueling Emergency

In August 1997, the commander in chief of USTRANSCOM, General Walter Kross, directed a feasibility study for a civilian contract air-refueling proposal. Unfortunately, the CCAR proposal was limited to contracting for probe-and-drogue-type refueling only. The feasibility study concluded that a 1-percent increase in wartime capability would cost approximately $25.5M annually. (46) Because of the costs associated with a relatively small increase in wartime capability, excitement for the CCAR concept did not exist at USTRANSCOM or AMC. Undoubtedly, the CCAR proposal that USTRANSCOM studied did not present a viable solution to the air-refueling shortfalls. However, it provides four valuable lessons for a CCAR force. CCAR operations are feasible, must be capable of accomplishing boom and probe-and-drogue-type refuelings, are best suited for deployment and training operations, and are cost-effective.

CCAR Feasibility

First and foremost, the USTRANSCOM report established that CCAR operations are feasible. In its concluding remarks, the report states, "There are no known equipment or technical obstacles to preclude program development." (47) The accuracy of this statement was demonstrated in the fall of 2000 when Omega Air, Inc--an internationally based company specializing in aircraft sales, leasing, and parts--used a modified Boeing 707 to refuel a Navy FA-18C. (48) Omega received certification from the Federal Aviation Authority for the operation, contracted for its own insurance, and paid the Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division $1M to certify the Boeing 707 for air-refueling operations. Following this successful demonstration, the Navy entered into a contract with Omega to provide civilian contract air refueling for its training operations. In addition to its 707s, Omega owns a fleet of about 20 DC-9s and DC-10s that could be modified for air-refueling operations, and recently, the president of Omega, Gale Matthe ws, voiced interest in purchasing KC-135s for use in Omega's air-refueling program. (49) Clearly, CCAR operations are feasible.

CCAR Operational Suitability

CCAR operations are best suited for deployment and training missions. USTRANSCOM' s Concept Development Report concluded, "Due to legal, policy, and liability considerations, the primary utility of contracted aerial refueling is in training and deployment operations outside areas of hostilities." (50)

CCAR Capability Requirements

CCAR capability must include boom-type refueling capability, not just probe and drogue. The reasons for this are twofold. First, AMC annual probe-and-drogue missions do not exceed 2,000 hours. (51) These hours account for a small portion of the nearly 85,000 training hours allocated to tankers and, when divided among the 800 tanker crews, are highly valuable for currency and proficiency. AMC cannot afford to lose a significant portion of this training to a civilian contractor. Second, the preponderance of probe-and-drogue requirements arises during combat-strike operations for which civilian contract air refueling is not suitable. USTRANSCOM's finding about probe-and-drogue operations is valid: "AMC does not have a sufficient amount of peacetime probe-and-drogue refueling business to sustain a useful contracted AIR [air refueling] fleet." (52)

CCAR Operations are Cost-Effective

The report presented initial cost options for CCAR operations that ranged from $4,862 to $9,878 per flying hour and noted, "The figures are not meant to be analyzed from a contract perspective ... but rather as benchmarks for report purposes." (53) Since UTSTRANSCOM completed its report in 1999, Omega refined its cost estimate to about $5,500 per flying hour and recently entered into a contract with the Navy to provide air refueling for $5,995 per hour. (54) The KC-135R cost per flying hour was $2,232 in FY99 and increased by more than 50 percent between FY99 and FY01 to its current cost of $3,673 per flying hour, primarily because of maintainability issues. (55) While the cost projections Omega presented for CCAR operations are higher than reimbursement rates for KC-135Rs, it is proportionately lower than the KG-10s. According to Air Force Instruction (AFI) 65-503, US Air Force Cost and Planning Factors, the FY01 reimbursement rate for KC-10s is $7,527 per flying hour. (61) At approximately $5,500 per flying hour, the cost of CCAR operations fits squarely in the middle of organic air-refueling costs ($3,673 to $7,527 per flying hour), and when compared to reimbursement rates for organic tankers, civilian contract air refueling presents a cost-effective option.

Contract Air Refueling: A Near-Term Solution

I think and think for months and years. Ninety-nine times, the conclusion is false. The hundredth time, I am right.

Albert Einstein (56)

The importance of air refueling to airpower employment cannot be stressed enough. Keith Hutcheson, in Air Mobility: The Evolution of Global Reach, masterfully records air refueling's contribution.

A robust aerial-refueling force provides numerous force multipliers that are critical in today's global environment. It gives virtually "unlimited" range to any air asset (bomber, fighter, airlift, special forces, or rescue) that has aerial refueling capability--U. S. or allied ... it gives military leaders tremendous flexibility in both planning and execution. It makes one fighter capable of doing the job of several by increasing the time it can stay aloft and the number of targets it can strike. It permits heavy airlift aircraft to carry greater payloads over much longer distances in significantly less time. An aerial refueling force makes all U. S. military forces (Army, Navy Marine, and Air Force) more influential and more capable. Aerial refueling is an incredible force multiplier. (57)

Civilian Contract Air Refueling: The Findings

Civilian contract air refueling is a unique concept that presents a near-term solution to AMC's air-refueling shortfall. The Air Force could realize three advantages from pursuing a CCAR capability. First, it would fill air-refueling deployment gaps in wartime plan deficiencies--now and in the future. Second, it would give receiver units a greater opportunity to maintain currency and proficiency at air-refueling operations. Finally, it would enhance air-refueling flexibility and improve airpower employment effectiveness.

CCAR Fills the Gap in Wartime Plan Deficiencies. AMC needs a cost-effective, near-term measure to fill the gap in wartime plans and relieve the peacetime operations tempo. As previously noted, the KC-135's increased depot-level maintenance cycles have decreased peacetime aircraft MICAP rates to almost 20 percent below those acceptable for wartime mission accomplishment. (58) Additionally, the service life of the KC-135 is still unknown, operations tempo is at an all-time high, and AMC says crew manning is at a level below that required for mission execution. (59) Finally, AMC does not have a plan to fill near-term requirements, and its long-term KC-135 replacement plan ignores the historical and financial realities of garnering a one-for-one replacement for any major weapon system. A CCAR force would help eliminate these shortcomings.

CCAR Increases Training Opportunities. CCAR capability serves two roles: force deployment and training enhancement. In its force deployment role, it would be available to relieve air-refueling tanker taskings and ensure AMC's ability to execute wartime plans. Additionally, it could be used to relieve tanker taskings during air expeditionary force swap-outs, giving overtasked tanker crews a relief from the demanding operations tempo. In the training role, it is available to meet receiver air-refueling currency and proficiency requirements.

CCAR Increases Airpower Flexibility. Air refueling, when properly employed, enhances, enables, and multiplies the strategic, operational, and tactical effects of any air operation. (60) Air refueling allows airpower forces to increase levels of mass, surprise, economy of force, and security and concentrates more assets for offensive and defensive operations. Since its inception, air refueling has been the force multiplier that is inherently critical to achieving the rapid, global mobility essential to maintaining deterrence--first line of national security for the United States. Moreover, air refueling's second role, force enhancement, is critical to winning the nation's wars--the bottom line of national security. (61) Increasing the availability of air-refueling assets with a CCAR capability is of insurmountable value to the flexibility required in peacetime operations and wartime mission execution. Undoubtedly, a CCAR capability would increase that flexibility and capability.

Civilian Contract Air Refueling: The Desired End State

Given the magnitude of air refueling's importance to national security and the dwindling state of air-refueling capability, the recommendation is singular: USTRANSCOM, in conjunction with AMC, should actively pursue a civilian contract air-refueling capability.




Table 1

Air Retueling and Air Force Core Competencies (12)

Rapid Global Mobility * Accomplished via deployment support.
 * Reduces reliance on en route staging
 * Deploys with almost all support
 equipment, personnel, and supplies
 on board, allowing immediate
 operations with minimum impact on the
 airlift system.

Precision Engagement * Enhances precision engagement by
 increasing the range, payload,
 loiter time, and flexibility of
 firepower assets.
 * Allows airlift aircraft to fly from
 the CONUS and deliver troops against
 an adversary or supplies into a disaster
 * Increases the loiter time of
 intelligence, surveillance, and
 reconnaissance assets, decreasing
 the number of these assets required to
 support an operation, while improving
 the ability to collect and disseminate
 * Enhances the ability of strike aircraft
 to employ precision weapons anywhere
 within the battlespace.

Global Attack * Enables global attack competency.
 * Provides aircraft tasked with the
 global attack mission the capability
 to carry signifcant payloads to
 distant theaters, employ their weapons,
 and then recover to a secure landing

Air and Space Superiority * Enhances air superiority. Aircraft
 can be based farther from the adversary
 and still perform assigned missions.
 * Reduces force-protection concerns and
 number of aircraft required for
 defensive operations, which frees
 aircraft for offensive operations.
 * Multiplies the effects of offensive
 operations. Attack aircraft can stay
 airborne longer outside an enemy
 aircraft s range and outlast the enemy s
 * Provides a distinct advantage in the
 head-to-head battle for air superiority.

Information Superiority * Provides force multiplication for
 information, surveillance, and
 reconnaissance (ISR) assets.
 * Increases ISR aircraft loiter time,
 which reduces the number of aircraft
 required to support an operation.

Agile Combat Support * Provides force multiplication for
 mobility airlift aircraft.
 * Allows airlift aircraft to deploy
 from the CONUS directly to distant
 theaters of operation, eliminating
 the need for time-consuming en route
Table 2.

AMC Airlift and Aerial Refueling Aircraft Data (30)

 Mission- Equivalent
Type Number Authorized Standard Aircraft
Aircraft Aircraft Aircraft (a) MC Rates (b) Needed (c)

C-5 126 104 75.0 78
C-17 52 44 87.5 39
C-141 172 135 80.0 108
KC-135 546 472 85.0 402
KC-10 59 48 85.0 41

 Equivalent Number
Type Aircraft Mission Average Aircraft Aircraft
Aircraft Capable (d) MC Rates (e) Short (Over)

C-5 57 55 21
C-17 29 66 10
C-141 83 61 25
KC-135 317 (f) 67 (f) 85 (f)
KC-10 42 88 (1)

(a)Excludes aircraft in inventory reserved for backup and training.

(b)Percentage of mission-authorized aircraft needed to meet wartime

(c)The MC rate times the number of mission authorized aircraft.

(d)The equivalent number of aircraft is based on the number of MC hours
units reported.

(e)Actual percentage of authorized aircraft mission capable is based on
number of MC hours units report.

(f)AMC tracks only 442 KC-135 authorized aircraft, and 30 KC-135s are
assigned to other commands. The 67-percent average MC rate for 442
aircraft was used to compute MC numbers for all 472 aircraft.


(1.) AMC, Air Mobility Strategic Plan 2000, Vol 1, Commander's Intent, Oct 99, 1(FOUO) (information extracted is not FOUO).

(2.) Joint Warfighting Center. Joint Pub 1: Joint Warfare of the Armed Forces of the United States, 10 Jan 95, v.

(3.) AMC, Air Mobility Strategic Plan 2000, Vol 1, Air Mobility Future Environment, Oct 99, 14.

(4.) Joint Warfare of the Armed Forces of the United States, vi.

(5.) GAO, Air Transport Capability Falls Short of Requirements, Jun 00, 29.

(6.) AMC, Air Mobility Strategic Plan 2000. Vol 3, Air Mobility Modernization Plan, Oct 99, 162-163.

(7.) Air Mobilization Modernization Plan, 163.

(8.) Perry B. Griffith, "Seven League Boots for TAC." The Airman, IV, No 8, Aug 60, 44.

(9.) Air Force Doctrine Center, AFDD 2-6, Air Refueling, 19 Jul 99, 9.

(10.) Air Force Doctrine Center, AFDD 1, Air Force Basic Doctrine, Sep 97, 11.

(11.) The information presented in this section is derived entirely from AFDD 2-6.2, 5.

(12.) The information presented in this section is derived entirely from AFDD 2-6.2, 8-9.

(13.) Keith W. Moncrief, Tactical Air Refueling: Undocumented Past, Future Requirement, Nov 96, 9.

(14.) Dennis Casey and Bud Baker. Fuel Aloft: A Brief History of Aerial Refueling, c. 1993, 14.

(15.) Vernon B. Byrd. Passing Gas; The History of Inflight Refueling, 1994, 177.

(16.) John L. Frisbee. "Tribute to Tankers," Air Force Magazine, Jan 96, 49.

(17.) Moncrief, 20.

(18.) AFDD 2-6.2, 1.

(19.) Except where otherwise noted, the quantitative information in this section was derived from Thomas A. Keaney and Eliot a. Cohen, Gulf War Air Power Survey Summary Report, 1993, 190-191.

(20.) AFDD 2-6.2, 1.

(21.) Keaney and Cohen, 229.

(22.) Col Robert C. Owen, Deliberate Force: A Case Study in Effective Air Campaigning, Jan 00, 220.

(23.) Maj David M. Cohen, The Vital Link: The Tanker's Rose in Winning America's Wars, Apr 00, 13.

(24.) George Seldes. The Great Thoughts, 1985, 235.

(25.) Air Transport Capability Falls Short of Requirements, 29.

(26.) AMC, Air Mobility Command Update, Dec 00, 12.

(27.) AMC, Air Mobility Strategic Plan 2000, Vol 2. Air Mobility Performance Plan, Oct 99, 54.

(28.) Air Mobility Performance Plan, 55.

(29.) Air Transport Capability Falls Short of Requirements, 30.

(30.) Air Transport Capability Falls Short of Requirements, 32

(31.) Air Transport Capability Falls Short of Requirements, 34

(32.) Air Mobility Command Update, 12.

(33.) Gen Michael Ryan, Statement before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Sep 00, 6.

(34.) Air Mobility Modernization Plan, 161.

(35.) Ibid.

(36.) Robert Wall, "USAF Reviews KC-135 Life Expectancy," Aviation Week & Space Technology, 16 Oct 00, 54.

(37.) Ibid.

(38.) "A Clamor for Airlift," Air Force Magazine, Dec 00, 29.

(39.) "A Clamor for Airlift," 27.

(40.) Air Mobility Modernization Plan, 163.

(41.) Wall, 54.

(42.) Seena Simon, "AMC Again Asks for More Funding for KC-135 Crews," Air Force Times, 11 Dec 00, 10.

(43.) James E. Sherrard III, "Reserve Essential Part of Military Strategy and Capability," Officer, Jan/Feb 00, 52-53.

(44.) Seldes, 105.

(45.) "A Clamor for Airlift," 28.

(46.) USTRANSCOM--TCJ5, Concept Development Report on Contracted Aerial Refueling, Revised, 21 Jun 99, 15.

(47.) Ibid.

(48.) Sandra I. Erwin, "Navy Considering Commercial Tanker Lease," National Defense, Oct 00, 24.

(49.) E-mail between Mr Matthews and the author, 12 Mar 01.

(50.) Concept Development Report on Contracted Aerial Refueling, 15.

(51.) Ibid.

(52.) HQ AMC, Directorate of Operations and Transportation, AMC Flying Hour Program, Sep 00, 1.

(53.) AMC Flying Hour Program, 13-14.

(54.) Erwin, 24. The cost data for the Navy contract was provided via e-mail between Omega Air, Inc. president and the author, 12 Mar 01.

(55.) Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Air Force, Cost and Economics, AFI 65-503, US Air Force Cost and Planning Factors, 4 Feb 94, Table A15-l, 3.

(56.) Peggy Anderson, Great Quotes from Great Leaders, 1990, 90.

(57.) Keith Hutcheson, Air Mobility: The Evolution of Global Reach, 1999, 11.

(58.) Air Transport Capability Falls Short of Requirements, 29.

(59.) Simon, 10.

(60.) AFDD 2-6.2, 9.

(61.) Joint Warfare of the Armed Forces of the United States, vi.

Major Camerer is the deputy director of Wing Current Operations, [62.sup.d] Operational Support Squadron, McChord AFB, Washington. At the time of the writing of this article, he was a student at the Air Command and Staff College.
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Author:Camerer, Mark D.
Publication:Air Force Journal of Logistics
Article Type:Statistical Data Included
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 22, 2002
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