Posts Tagged ‘Tanker’

Tanker wars – finally over?

With last week’s announcement that Boeing has won the latest round of the KC-X tanker contract – the Air Force may finally be on its way to replacing the aging and overworked KC-135 fleet.

This contract has been up for debate for almost 10 years, when Boeing originally proposed to lease new 767-based tankers to the Air Force at what would be a dramatic markup over buying the aircraft outright. When the Congressional outrage and indictments died down, the Air Force had to start over, and the competition was between Boeing (US) and Airbus (Europe).

The original contract was awarded to a partnership of Northrup-Grumman and Airbus in 2008, but Boeing challenged that award and the GAO forced the bidding to be restarted in 2009.

Airbus said all of the right things. Their plan was to build their existing A330 Multi Role Tanker at a new plant outside of Mobile, AL. They were already building this same aircraft for Australia (even though there have been some hiccups in the testing – notably part of the refueling boom falling off during testing in Europe). But when the decision was announced, it turned out that Boeing had beat Airbus’ price by 10%. Which in today’s tough economic times, may have been the only thing considered.

The Air Force – in an attempt to derail any possible challenges to this latest ruling, spent an extra day debriefing Airbus on why the decision went the way it did. And so on Saturday, the word has come out that EADS (Airbus parent company) will not challenge the latest result in this contract battle.

[It should be noted, that the Boeing offering changed from what had originally been proposed back in 2001/2002, so the prototype that Boeing modified – dubbed the Frankentanker – will not be resurrected for use under the latest contract award]


Contract air to air refueling

While the Pentagon takes its sweet time to determine what is going to be done with the US Air Force tanker program – the US Navy has gone out and contracted with a private firm to provide aerial refueling for Navy training activities.

Omega Air Refueling operates 3 aircraft (two Boeing 707’s and one DC-10) in support of their contract with the government. This contract is just the flying hours of the aircraft. The responsible party (i.e. squadron) for the receiving aircraft is responsible for the cost of the actual fuel (and can use their government credit card – just as if they were buying fuel during a cross-country or TDY).

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So what’s going on with the Tanker buy?

The President’s first 100 days are over – and still no word on what is going to happen with one of the most watched Pentagon acquisition programs in years.

The Air Force tanker program (to replace the aging KC-135’s).

SecDef Robert Gates has said he opposes a ‘dual buy’ (some from Airbus and some from Boeing) option.

There isn’t a even a concrete ‘dual buy’ proposal on the table, only suggestions from some Senate subcommittee chairmen as a way to break the impasse. And even then – the actual committee chairmen have not yet decided other than to wait to see what the Pentagon proposes.

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Japanese KC-767 damaged

According to the DEW Line blog over at FlightGlobal – one of the two 767 airborne tankers delivered to the JASDF was damaged during an emergency landing earlier today.

DEW Line has link to Japanese statement – and someone’s attempt to translate the statement to English.


Tanker follies – continue into the New Year/Administration

KC-767 Tanker Aircraft

Originally uploaded by planephotoman

The Pentagon has announced that the controversial bidding for the new Tanker aircraft – won’t start again until after the New Year (i.e. after the Election).

Which will give Boeing a chance to redo their proposal to be based on the 777 instead of the 767 (since the USAF seems to prefer a large airplane).

Boeing needs all of the help they can get right now. Not only are they in the middle of what will probably turn into a bitter strike with their Machinists Union – but they just announced that the delivery of the 767 tankers to Italy will slip to 2009.


Airbus A330 tanker

Airbus A330 MRTT The Airbus A330 MRTT (multi-role tanker-transport) seen here in RAAF markings – being tested before the addition of the air refueling package.

In addition to the Australian order (5 airplanes), Airbus is currently working on these additional orders;

  • UK (RAF) – 14 aircraft (delivery in 2011, as a lease (similiar to the original Boeing 767 proposal to the USAF)
  • UAE – 3 aircraft (MOU signed in 2007)
  • Saudi Arabia – 3 aircraft (MOU signed in 2008)

I will have to hand it to the Airbus engineer’s – for their plane – they used the wing from the A340 (which was designed for 4 engines).  The refueling pods (for the probe and droque system – that everyone BUT the USAF uses) will be attached on the wings were the outboard engines would have gone.


Boeing’s 767 tanker

Italian spray

Originally uploaded by F/Depth Photography

The picture shows Boeing’s 767 tanker that is being built for Italy – being tested in the always-wet weather in Seattle.

The point is – that both airplanes (systems if you will, counting the refueling mechanism’s) have already been developed. So all that has to be done is to set up the production pipeline to deliver the aircraft.

(this assumes that Boeing sticks w/ the 767 airframe. There has been talk that Boeing would propose a tanker based on the 777, to add the dual role (air refueling and cargo hauling) that the USAF would really like).


Why is the Tanker contract such a big deal?

KC135 refueling EC135

Originally uploaded by rob-the-org

Unless you have been hiding under a rock or completely oblivious to Defense mattters, you know that the GAO overturned the landmark KC-X aerial refueling (tanker) contract that the US Air Force awarded to the Northrup-Grumman/EADS (Airbus) team.


The Air Force has needed to replace the KC-135 (based on the original Boeing 707 prototype) for the last 10 years. But the controversy around this contract was thrown into the spotlight right after 9/11 (2001).

Boeing proposed a lease of converted 767’s to the US Air Force at a reduced rate (Boeing would benefit by keeping its 767 production line open, and the Air Force would get needed planes). But the scrutiny of this deal – by none other than Republican Presidential contender, John McCain – killed this deal, and resulted in the resignations/indictments of several Air Force and Boeing officals.

When the Air Force was forced to put the contract out for bid, there was a surprise bidder. EADS (Airbus) in partnership w/ Northrup-Grumman. Initially – no one thought NGA had a chance.

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