On February 24, 2011, the Department of Defense (DOD) announced the Boeing Company as the winner of a competition to build 179 new KC-46A aerial refueling tankers for the Air Force, a contract valued at roughly $35 billion. Prior to the announcement, the program had been known as KC-X. The first four KC-46s were delivered in January 2019.

The KC-46A acquisition program is a subject of congressional interest because of the dollar value of the contract, the number of jobs it would create, the importance of tanker aircraft to U.S. military operations, and because previous attempts to acquire a new tanker since 2001 had ultimately failed. It has also attracted attention due to cost growth, schedule delays, and other issues with program execution.

DOD’s KC-46A acquisition strategy poses potential oversight issues for Congress, including

  • What alternatives does the Air Force have to extend KC-135 service life or cope in other ways with the KC-46 delays?
  • What are the effects of budget cuts on executability of the KC-46A program?
  • Do contracts that place cost risk on contractors create positive incentives for performance? FY2020 defense authorization bill: The explanatory statement accompanying S. 1790 recommended $2.199 billion for the KC-46A program, $36.0 million less than the Administration’s request. FY2020 defense appropriations bill: The Joint Explanatory Statement of the Committee of Conference on S. 2474 approved $2.14 billion for the KC-46A program, a decrease of $94.8 million from the Administration’s request. The Administration requested $2.85 billion in procurement funding for the KC-46 in FY2021. FY2021 defense authorization and appropriations bills were in progress as of the date of this report.