Air Force Assessment of the Joint Strike Fighter's Aerial Refueling Method: GAO-05-316R

Sullivan, Michael J.
March 2005
GAO Reports;3/14/2005, p1
Government Document
Revising the Air Force's conventional JSF aircraft refueling method from a boom to a probe and drogue would require modifying most of its current KC-135 tanker aircraft at an estimated cost of $2.5-$3.5 billion according to the Air Force. This estimated cost far outweighs the cost savings gained from having a common JSF refueling configuration estimated to be about $180 million for the JSF program. However, the Air Force estimate of costs and savings does not consider the future tanker acquisition and potential cost savings if the Air Force JSF was refueled by the probe and drogue method. For example, a Rand Corporation study concluded that tanker requirements could be reduced from 17 percent to 50 percent depending upon specific warfighting scenarios if a tanker has the capability to refuel simultaneously two aircraft with the probe and drogue method. Using the current inventory of KC-135 tankers as a replacement baseline and a Congressional Budget Officer estimate of $150 million for a new tanker, a 17-percent reduction in the number of tankers required could equate to an estimated savings of $13.7 billion. The Air Force assessment of JSF refueling requirements did not fully address advantages and disadvantages of each method to make it clear whether a change is beneficial to DOD.


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