Not long ago an Air Force general stood before me on a conference stage and said something that blew my mind: "the mother of the last KC-135 pilot hasn't been born yet." And that was before the award to Northrop/BAE, the protest of Boeing, the alleged recompete run by DOD, and today's termination of the procurement on the grounds that there isn't enough time left to get it done before the administration turns over. Maybe today the same statement holds true except substitute "grandmother" for "mother".
What a total clusterfxck, for the pilots, for maintenance crews, and for the AF logistics and fuel budgets. Only positive thing I can think of is that maybe the so-called Dreamliner 787, with improved, energy-saving aerodynamics and engines, can now become the base plane from which the future tanker is derived. 3-times delayed, it has some con's to go with its pro's, as described here.
In the meantime (and it may be a long meantime), there are a few lean fueling efficiency things the Air Force can do to improve fuel utilization on its current yet paleolithic fleet of 500 or so tankers.
US Air Force photo courtesy of MSgt Marvin Krause