AIR FORCE INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY WRIGHT-PATTERSON AFB OH WRIGHT-PATTERSON AFB United States
The KC-135 Stratotanker is one of the most numerous and widespread aircraft in the Air Forces fleet. With 396 aircraft located at 31 different installations, a massive amount of infrastructure is dedicated to supporting the airframe. This research proposes that there are too many operating locations in the KC-135 force structure, which is a result of the numerous small unit sizes operating in the Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard components. The researcher hypothesizes that the current state of the KC-135 force structure is having a negative impact on the airframes operational readiness rates while also costing the Air Force money due to inefficient unit sizes. The researcher uses a qualitative analysis to detail the history of the KC-135 force structure and to describe how the current force structure impacts daily operations. Following this, the researcher demonstrates that larger KC-135 units have statistically higher aircraft availability rates than smaller units. Finally, the researcher uses quantitative analysis to show that larger KC-135 units are more economically efficient than smaller units. This research paper recommends the consolidation of existing KC-135 units in the Air Reserve Component. This would increase unit fleet sizes for the purposes of improving aircraft availability rates while also saving money on infrastructure and overhead costs. The researcher recognizes that closing units for consolidation is a politically sensitive issue, and thus does not recommend any specific units for closure. Instead, the researcher recommends that Congress convene a future Base Realignment and Closure round and use the findings from this research to propose a more efficient force structure for the KC-135.