…Mark Gunzinger, senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, a Washington, D.C., think tank that focuses on defense policy, said it’s too soon to say which of the four competitors may have a leg up. It’s not yet clear, he said, whether the Air Force wants the jet for training only, or intends to also give it a combat or air defense mission, or qualify it for sale to friendly foreign governments. More information will be revealed when the Air Force releases a formal RFP, Gunzinger said. In the meantime, he said, “It’s far, far too early to say any one prospective company has the edge in this competition.” Gunzinger said using an existing jet could save money, but a brand new jet could be designed to fit current Air Force needs exactly. He said cost will be a significant factor in the decision since the Air Force is already buying a new tanker, a new bomber, a new fighter and a new airborne early warning and control system.
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