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Aerial refueling tankers are a critical part of U.S. military and national security strategy. The KC-135 constitutes the bulk of the current tanker force, but this fleet is nearing 50 years of age and has exhibited some technical difficulties and increased costs of operation. The work described here summarizes the activities and results of an Analysis of Alternatives undertaken to address the cost-effectiveness of a wide range of alternatives for KC-135 recapitalization, including both different replacement systems and different replacement schedules. Among the conclusions were that medium to large commercial derivatives are the most cost-effective replacement aircraft and that, as long as the capability of the current fleet meets or exceeds the requirement, the costs are relatively insensitive to timing.

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The research reported here was sponsored by the United States Air Force and conducted by RAND Project AIR FORCE.

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