As the world waits to see whether EADS will join with a new partner and pursue a KC-X bid after all, we’ve obtained some new information about the configuration for the Boeing KC-767.
Boeing’s press announcement and illustrations that it will offer the KC-767 left unanswered some questions, so we posed several to Bill Barksdale, Boeing’s tanker spokesman. Below is the email exchange.
Q. The 787 cockpit displays are referenced in the PR, but it is not clear to me if this is more-or-less a “cosmetic” thing or if the cockpit is akin to the 787. The KC767AT was to have the 767-400 “cockpit” and I am trying to understand just what it is Boeing is putting into the KC767NG.
A. It was our intention to only share (via the press release) that we’re taking electronic displays from the 787 for the NewGen Tanker and how that will help future aircrews if we’re fortunate to win the contract. That’s as far as we’re prepared to go on the flight deck…at this point.
Q. The new-gen FBW boom: is this the 6th gen from the KC767AT? A. It is not the 6th Gen boom from the AT. The NewGen is a brand new offer…with a brand new boom…based on the proven KC-10 boom.
Q. The artwork showing the KC767NG all has winglets. The press release does not mention winglets. Is it Boeing’s plan to have winglets?
A. The Boeing NewGen Tanker is clearly depicted in all of our public material with winglets.
Q. The press release uses the 24% fuel burn advantage from the 2007 competition data. Winglets on the commercial 767 improve SFC by ~4%. Where is this “missing” 4% if indeed the KC767NG will have winglets?
A. Since we are still in a competition, we will not be providing that kind of detail.
Q. Is the KC767NG going to have a heavier wing (which is what I hear from a couple of sources) and does this mean (a) the wing from the 767-200ER will be beefed up? Or (b) will the wing from the 767-300ERF be used?
A. The NewGen Tanker will be based on a commercial 767. That’s as far as we’re prepared to go with details at this time.
Q. If #5 is correct (a or b), is this where the “missing” 4% from winglets has gone?
A. See previous answers
Q. I continue to hear that there are wing pod issues for the Italian tanker. Are there any issues of any kind that result in lower operational performance (such as refueling at a slower airspeed) or aerodynamic issues that have contributed to further delays? I continue to hear that there are issues with the fuselage center-line hose-and-drogue on the Italian tanker. Are there any issues of any kind that result in lower operational performance (such as refueling at a slower airspeed) or aerodynamic issues that have contributed to further delays?
A. All I can provide is the current statement on the Italy Tanker Program. Here it is… As we have previously stated, there are a handful of major milestones we need to perform before we enter Tender for Acceptance and the delivery process for the first KC-767 tanker for our Italian customer. These include testing with refueling of a C-130J by the KC-767 and overall completion of flight testing, a military utility observation and, as necessary, resolving issues that arise during these tests. We are working toward completion of these milestones.
Q. I gather from the absence of any reference to the WTO issue that Boeing does not plan to protest its omission from the FRFP. Correct?
A. As mentioned in our platform announcement last Thursday, we intend to bid for the KC-X contract.
Q. Boeing makes the claim in its press release that the KC767 produces more US jobs than the KC-30. The respective claims are 44,000 and 48,000. Please explain this discrepancy with respect to the claim in yesterday’s press release. (FWIW I don’t buy either claim; I think they are both wildly inflated, but that’s not the issue here.)
A. [You] might want to take a look at the jobs study released this past Wednesday on this… [Our notation: Boeing released a study it paid for that now claims the KC-767 program will create between 60,000 and 70,000 jobs over the life of the program while Northrop’s KC-30 would produce between 7,000 and 8,000 jobs over the lifetime of the program. We previously have written that we believed the claims by Boeing of 44,000 and Northrop’s 48,000 jobs to be inflated. We don’t need to comment what we think of this latest study. The Seattle Times has an analysis on the new study that debunks the new claims.]
Q. From Washington State’s perspective, it is my understanding that more work than planned with the KC767AT will actually be accomplished at Everett as opposed to undertaking production here and greater modification in Wichita. Can you confirm and quantify at all?
A. All I can confirm is that we’ll build the NewGen Tanker there in Everett and take it to Wichita for modification work.
Q. Do you have any color on how the shift to a Lean production 767 line (as a result of the 787 surge line) will benefit tanker production and pricing?
A. Not sure we’re ready to provide data on that quite yet.
Boeing’s KC-767 NewGen sounds an awful lot like the KC-767 Advanced Tanker in many ways: that is, a mix-and-match of parts and development from many airplanes and a refueling boom that is entirely new.
Northrop Grumman supporters deviously and devastatingly effectively, if unfairly, labeled the KC-767AT the “Frankentanker,” and that’s what the KC-767NG sounds like.
We said “Frankentanker” was an unfair characterization because Boeing has been mixing-and-matching components from sub-types in its airplanes since the dawn of the jet age. Most recently, the 737-based P-8A Poseidon is a mix-and-match of wings-to-fuselage (737-900 wing to 737-800 fuselage); the Dreamlifter has the tail from the 747SP and while the fuselage certainly is more than a mix-and-match, the differences from the 747-400 are clear; the 747SP had flaps and a tail that were different from the 747-100 from which it was derived; the 767-400 had a different cockpit, wing and flaps and modified landing gear from the 767-300ER, and so on. But the fact remains the KC-767NG is a far different airplane from the Italian tanker–which still has not been delivered–and apparently a far cry from the “simplified” airplane Boeing suggested would be offered in place of the KC-767AT.
We shall watch with interest to see how this all unfolds. Whether EADS returns to the battle or not, Boeing still has to present an airplane that is acceptable to the Air Force at a price that is reasonable.