A U.S. Air Force KC-10 Extender refuels near Mosul, Iraq, on Nov. 20, 2016.Photo by: U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. R. Alex Durbin
There is no war without tankers.
It's an often-repeated phrase from U.S. Air Force officials such as Air Mobility Command commander Gen. Carlton Everhart II who say air refueling aircraft and mobility airmen are key to supporting troops in any war or peacetime mission.
But the service finds itself struggling to outline what's next for its tanker fleet as the KC-46 Pegasus -- the newest refueling tanker from Boeing Co. -- hangs in the balance. Meanwhile, questions surround the service’s aging KC-10 Extender and whether it will have to remain in service longer due to delays.
Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson this week chastised Boeing's latest Pegasus setback during a House Armed Services Committee hearing, saying the service knows deadlines won't be met even as the nation’s largest aerospace and defense company still hopes to meet them.
"One of our frustrations with Boeing is that they are much more focused on their commercial activity than they are in getting this right for the Air Force and getting these airplanes to the Air Force," Wilson told lawmakers Tuesday.