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AMC welcomes tanker pick

SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. -- The commander of Air Mobility Command hailed the Air Force's recent aerial tanker source selection announcement as an important first step toward ensuring America maintains its global reach capability. 

Air Force officials announced Feb. 29 that Northrop Grumman Corporation was selected to build the new tanker, designated the KC-45. The new tanker will replace the Air Force's aging fleet of KC-135 Stratotankers. 

"The KC-45A is the tanker of the future," said Gen. Arthur J. Lichte, AMC commander. "It will enable us to carry more fuel and cargo, and allow us the flexibility to refuel any type of receiver on every mission. It will come equipped with systems to take this capability closer to the fight while protecting our Airmen as they operate in hostile skies." 

The backbone of America's existing tanker fleet is the KC-135, which was built during the Eisenhower and Kennedy administrations. Replacing this aircraft has been the top acquisition priority for the Air Force for several years. 

"The KC-135s have served us well and will have to continue to fly for decades until this recapitalization is complete," General Lichte said. "It is vitally important to ensure this recapitalization effort is fully funded and stays on track, to ensure this capability so critical to our national security is always there. 

"I look forward to seeing the first KC-45A in the field. The success of this program will require a strong commitment from our national leaders, and I'm confident they understand and appreciate what an important asset this modernized tanker is to America's defense," he said. 

Tanker aircraft have played an essential role in the war on terrorism. Since Sept. 11, 2001, Air Force tankers have passed more than 1.2 billion gallons of fuel to other aircraft. 

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. T. Michael Moseley calls tankers "the single point of failure for everything we do."