Odds and Ends: More on the A380; KC-30 boom still a problem

More on the A380: Bloomberg News has this story on Airbus’ efforts to increase sales of the A380, focusing on selling it with increased seating.

KC-30 Boom: Airbus Military still has problems with the refueling boom on its KC-30, some two years after delivery to Australia. Long-time Readers will recall that Airbus’ inexperience with designing the book was one key criticism by Boeing in the interminable KC-X tanker competition.

103 Comments on “Odds and Ends: More on the A380; KC-30 boom still a problem

  1. In the end, if the seat-mile costs of an A380 are 10%ish lower than on any other offering, the market will use this advantage. If one thinks in airline alliances, then there are sufficient routes. We will probably see a development towards for economy-prone layouts as cost-sensitive passengers have less issues with hub’n spoke.

  2. Interesting that Clark says the existing economy offering on the a380 is so popular he doesn’t want to tamper with it. In effect he is saying that cramming more seats in depresses pricing so much it isn’t worth it. Personally I don’t spend my own money on uncomfortable flights like 777s in 10 wide layout, the price difference to fly on other airlines is so little.

    This doesn’t help the 777X business case, he is saying Emirates will only use them for very low fare passengers.

  3. Airbus is finding out that a tanker air refueling boom is much, much more than simply a metal tube with little wings on it. The RAAF took delivery of their first KC-30A back in 2011, after 4 years of delays. At first it was restricted to doing only drogue refueling, until they found out the basket would not stabilize. Airbus promised the RAAF the KC-30 refueling boom would be certified and operational by the end of 2012. Looks like the KC-30/A-330MRTT missed another deadline.

    The boom on the KC-30 is not the first FBW boom, that honor goes to the KC-10A back in the 1980s.

    Yes, the KC-30 does carry more fuel than the KC-767/KC-46A, but all that fuel is useless if the tanker cannot give it to the guys who need it.

    Yes, the A-380 will go to 11 across in Y class, but when will Airbus offer it with 12 across?

    • The KC767 was 7 years late. About tankers and missed deadlines, Boeing is still the leader, that’s right.

      • The Tanker is not late, it’s exactly on time per the USAF. Your characterization is a lame attempt to smear BA for something that is not their fault. If you wish to place blame for KC-X program delay, then assign it where it belongs, with the US government.

        As it turns out its the Airbus tanker that is late, and non-functional. It’s a good thing the USAF decided to skip the A330, since a tanker that can’t actually tank gas is worthless, as the Aussies are now finding out to their dismay. The 767 tankers for Italy worked pretty well supplying French and UK in the Libya action. Something the A330 couldn’t do.

        • You should get yourself some hermaphoditic entertainment, Howard 😉

          The KC767 is not the KC46A.

          How long did Japan and Italy each wait for their KC767 frames?

          Even with the problems carefully downplayed in the press, Boeing had problems so significant that the customers wouldn’t even touch the frames until fixed.

          Aside from the alarmist headline the information given by the Australian Military on their KC-30 experience actually reads rather positive.

      • Well, Uwe you should know about Hermaphrodites, so I will differ to your deeper knowledge of such things. When it comes to airplane business, I am quite confident in my facts and experience. The KC767 supported the French and British forces, the A330 wasn’t even in theater. I know that doesn’t sit we’ll with your hermaphrodite fanboy sensitivities, but it’s just the facts. The KC-30 isn’t ready for anything, it can’t do the job, and your glorious Airbus has failed. [Edited].

      • Howard, why do you think the A330 tanker should have been ‘in theatre’ for Libya? I know Australia had received A330s before the Libyan conflict but why would the Australian government have got involved and, if they had, why would they have flown A330s all that way? On the other hand, the Italian government did want to get involved, in a support role. So the obvious things to contribute were airfield access and refuelling, which is what they did.

    • KC, if it’s any consolation, a twin-aisle airplane can’t go any more than eleven-across: 3-5-3. The FAA requires that a window seat must not be more than two seats from the adjacent aisle. No center seat can be more then two seats from either aisle. That’s why you can’t have more than a triple next to a window nor more that a quintuple in the center

      • keesje :
        The A330 tanker was selected by all air forces since it became available. (Italian and Japanese were before and US 767 was selected by congres). Because of performance superiority. No doubt there are some issues with the MRTT. I wonder how serious they are.

        Yeap, the A-330 is proving its “performance superiority” everyday it is needed to fly a boom refueling mission, isn’t it?

      • 3-6-3 is also possible according to this logic because the two center seats are both just two seats away from an adjacent aisle.

      • mhalblaub it doesn’t work that way. No seat in the center can be more than two seats away from EITHER aisle.

        Assume a 3-6-3 seat row, designated ABC-DEFGHJ-KLM. [airlines don’t use the letter “eye” because it looks like the number “one”].

        Seat F is four seats from the right aisle; seat G is four seats from the left aisle.

  4. A bit of an opportunistic suggestion re tankers IMO. It was a totally politic selection. As said the 767 build on tons of experience had tons dof problems with the Italian and Japanese air forces. EADS had the A310 MRTT before the A330 tanker..

    • The A-310MRTT was never a new build product from Airbus, keesje. The handful of Canadian and German A-310 tankers were all used aircraft before their conversion. Only one A-310MRTT (Airbus called it the KC-310) ever had a boom, and that was for the flight testing of the A-330MRTT boom. Additionally the A-310MRTT flown by Canada and Germany (the only customers, IIRC) are drogue tankers.

      But we are talking about the boom problems of the A-330MRTT, and the A-310MRTT doesn’t have a boom.

      Yes, I agree the A-330MRTT/KC-30 were a political selection (just as France will select it, without a competition, when they can afford it). It also met all but one of the requirements for the USAF KC-X program (the required cargo strength main deck floor). But it could not compete on price. The DOD and USAF in their selection of the KC-46 said the price difference “wasn’t even close”.

      • The price difference wasn’t even close because Ab charged a realistic price for their more expensive product and Bo low-balled with their less expensive product.
        Was it the GAO? we already know the KC-46 will cost Boeing beyond the contract cost cap where the gov’t will absolutely stop sharing any cost overrun.

        Off-course any gov’t contract is a political decision, and my view of the whole process is that the political decision was that Boeing had to win. Boeing was first gifted the program and people were sent to jail, Airbus then beat Boeing and B cried foul – apparently you can’t award value to an offer that exceeds your expectations. (Technically and legally Bo was correct – but I still don’t think it makes sense). Then they landed upon the solution – award the project to the lowest bidder…
        Let’s send the troops in supported by the cheapest, not necessarily the Best?

  5. Uwe :
    You should get yourself some hermaphoditic entertainment, Howard
    The KC767 is not the KC46A.
    How long did Japan and Italy each wait for their KC767 frames?
    Even with the problems carefully downplayed in the press, Boeing had problems so significant that the customers wouldn’t even touch the frames until fixed.
    Aside from the alarmist headline the information given by the Australian Military on their KC-30 experience actually reads rather positive.

    ROTFLMAO

  6. It’s interesting to note, the RAF is contracting with the USAF to refuel their aircraft requiring a boom as their A330MRTT’s leased from EADS et al’s AirTanker have no booms.

    • I don’t think they ever were intended to have them – I think its only the 707-based frames that need booms, so it would not have been cost effective to fit them.

      • yes, the RAF plans acquisition of RC-135’s, but how will they refuel the current fleet C-17’s? And, then tankers themselves, like the MRTT, are commonly refueled as well. Will they need USAF booms?

        ps. as we know, -135’s aren’t based on the 707 but the original “dash-8” aircraft that don’t share the 707’s frame heritage.

        Then, booms are required for fit to existing receiver aircraft but also for faster refueling as well (about 2x faster than a center line Cobham hose about 3x wing pod hose)

      • KC-135-type booms were installed in 1974 in production 707-3J9C airframes for the pre-1978 Iranian Air Force plus some for the Royal Saudi AF. They have been retrofit to ex-airline 707’s for the Israeli AF, maybe also by Australia to ex-Qantas 707’s, maybe others.

        A dry boom was temporarily fitted to the frist 747-100, RA001 N7470. Hookups were conducted but no fuel transferred. Circa 1974

        http://i98.photobucket.com/albums/l276/pinchepelon_2006/2.jpg

        Operational booms were installed on some ex-TWA 747-100’s that had been converted to tankers for pre-Islamic Iran’s AF. Circa 1977

        http://iiaf.net/aircraft/tankerstranspt/images/iiaf747tanker_jpg.jpg

        Don’t know if lower lobe tanks were added or not.

        Other Iranian 747’s had receivers fitted. Similar receivers were installed on the two VC-25 747-200B’s used for AF1 plus the 747’s converted to E4B’s.

    • That would be because UK air forces (RAF and RN) are probe and drogue forces exclusively, at least as far as I’m aware. The only exception will be the 3 RC-135 aircraft they are buying. So why fit expensive to buy and maintain kit (a boom) for just 3 aircraft, when you can ‘borrow’ refuels from USAF planes for the job (seem to remember reading that the US had to do similar, ‘borrowing’ refuels RAF tankers for probe and drogue over the mid East last decade), especially when the two RC135 fleets will be flown in cooperation.

      • C-17’s need booms as do A330MRTT’s. Some USAF KC-135’s have wing attached hose & drogue systems as well as center boom.

      • I’d forgotten the C17, but that adds only 7 aircraft. As for the A330 I wonder whether there would be much call for refuelling that. Anyway, the point stands. Probably 10 aircraft require a boom, of which 3 will be jointly operated with a boom equipped fleet. I fail to see how they are worth the cost it would take to add a boom, especially in a situation where the government felt compelled to scrap the entire, just built, MPA fleet & tried to scrap almost brand new reconnaisance aircraft, as well as retiring the entire RN fast jet fleet and so on and so on.

  7. The boom problems don’t speak well for Airbus. Steep learning curve I guess. Does anyone know how they have done on the receiving end (refuelling kit on the A400M Grizzly)?

  8. News flash, Volkswagen are re-opening the Beetle factory in Mexico to provide lowest cost replacement for the Hummer. It makes at least as much sense as just buying the cheapest tanker. Lucky the Il-76 offer got lost, or…..

  9. kc135topboom :
    US Military weapon’s contracts are almost always awarded to the lowest bidder.

    if the past means anything, “unexpected” complications will arise just about a year after the point of no return. Industry lobbyist will start flagwaving and spreading fear, telling the public how old the equipment is our boys and girls have to use, defending our interest, way of living, safety, while liberating others. Anyway to cut thing short a budget overrun of about 40-80% and a 2-5 years delay.

    The USAF will accept, kicking & screaming, while being called incompetent by the same lobbyists. http://csis.org/files/publication/110517_DIIG_MDAP_overruns.pdf

    But the bid was sharp..

    • keesje, that CSIS report is more than 2 years old and does not contain any KC-46 information. It is heavily ‘balanced’ mostly because of the F-35 overruns, which even then were well over 100%.

    • And you say that to say what? That is the American way and it has operated in that manner for years. Had there been a purchase of the A330 tanker do you really think Airbus would have done anything differently? Let’s be honest here and not waste claims on things we know will not change because of the supplier. Fact the A400 has been fraught with signficant cost overruns, and the A330 has not performed for current customers. But now you say had the KC-30 won this deal the results would be different? Again, in the defense world projects have cost overruns and they are driven by a host of reasons. None really driven by who wins the contract. Why? All defense programs are jobs bills written to provide welfare for defense suppliers. And, let’s be real honest again, if we know it’s welfare why would Amercian taxpayers really want to give that welfare to a non-US company? Again, it’s the American way and it is what it is.

    • It’s a bit more complicated, but of course that, “flagwaving and spreading fear, telling the public how old the equipment is our boys and girls have to use,” isn’t unique to a particular region’s or company sales campaign.

      And, can or would Boeing openly threaten program cancellation, hold it hostage, for more R&D money?

  10. Guess John Leahy’s sales pitch for the A380 is not doing as well as the comments he has been making about the 787. The market buys what it needs, when it needs it, and in what configs that are needed. A sales pitch will not result in sales if there is no required need.

    • l7room, Leahy comments on 787 reliability were probably misplaced indeed During the last two days Air India had a burning 787 oven and smoke in the cabin, ANA found 2 damaged transmitters and the FAA send out an AD.

      Dispatch reliability is still good though. Maybe these incidents are overblown and taken out of context.

      Maybe not. Maybe we only hear bits and pieces of what is going on, because everybody avoids being held responsible a hype. Who heard of the 100 Dreamliner LI-Ion battery exchanges before the JAL one started smoking?

      • I get the point, but here is the challenge we face in today’s world. We are pushing the window of perfornace to find new and more efficient ways to travel, and for that price we pay with having these type issues. Does not mean anyone will be killed, but it does mean we will have to take the good with the bad until we understand the technology better. Should we do the Airbus way, and be riskaverse to technology or should we do the Boeing way and embrace it and maybe try too much? Who knows which is the right path. In today’s world with so many lawyers waiting in the wings, and investors unwilling to support risk, many say take it slow. Well Keesje the answer lies in America’s use of defense welfare!!!! We use defense as our test bed for many concepts and we hope they ttransfer economically into the commercial world. The 787 is a product of program overrunns, taxpayer support, and we’ve still not gotten it right. So where do we go from here, and I think it’s not to bad mouth effort but to try and harnes our technology in meaningful ways. But then again I write too much.

  11. Uwe and Howard, dial it back.

    I will remind readers against personal comments toward each other, even in an attempt to be humorous.

    Hamilton

  12. This site would be better served if we keep a lid on the fanboys club. They could not even handle (without brining in the other side) – a simple observation that KC 30 boom issues remain. That is unfortunate . Scott’s warning is timely .

  13. keesje :
    http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/07/26/us-boeing-dreamliner-qatar-idUSBRE96P0GF20130726

    It looks like Honeywell could have a QC problem with this model of ELT since ANA found damaged wires inside two of their units. This makes the suspected cause of the fire more probable, in my opinion. Hopefully the damaged wires are limited only to ELTs destined for the 787, since they might have needed their batteries changed due to the long delivery delays. Otherwise it will only be a matter of time before the AD will have to be extended to include this model ELT on all aircraft.

    • These batteries are field replacable, aren’t they?
      IMU they have limited service life and would have had to be replaced for
      delivery of a 787 to provide full initial servicelife.
      Thus it is either a Honeywell QA issue ( somebody at Honeywell fumbled the installation )
      or someone at Boeing ( or a subcontractor) fumbled the replacement (?and? Honeywell has a design problem over a damage prone replacement process.)

      • It looks like the data gathering effort has begun. Boeing is asking certain operators of the 717, 737NG, 747-400, 767, and 777 to inspect their fixed Honeywell ELTs. Ostensibly, this is to support potential rulemaking.

    • In the case of the 787, there are smoke events, but no fires. Except for the ELT, but fortunately enough that’s not Boeing’s problem. 🙂

    • FF is you are implying that airlines are willfully hiding 787 problems then you have been watching too many made-for-TV movies or reading too many sensationalist paperbacks

      In-service issues are reported to the manufacturer and the FAA. If it is deemed serious by either or both, there will be an Alert Service Bulletin to every operator of that model – sometimes a temporary fix sometimes instructions to deactivate something. That could be followed or preceded by an airworthiness directive [AD] or even an emergency AD from the FAA.

      It is a well-known process that has worked for years. Any airline or manufacturer would be flat-out insane to try to circumvent it – discovery would be inevitable and the consequences would be too severe to contemplate

      The 787 was grounded in January 2013 by this emergency AD:
      http://rgl.faa.gov/Regulatory_and_Guidance_Library/rgAD.nsf/0/8a1a8dc3135b60dd86257af60004cf4a/$FILE/2013-02-51_Emergency.pdf

      The AD was not lifted until the FAA approved Boeing’s fix. No in-service 787 was allowed to carry passengers until the fix was retrofit; no undelivered 787 could get an airworthiness certificate allowing delivery until the fix had been installed

      • I admit to a cheap joke in the second part of the comment that should be disregarded.

        Seriously, I presume the FAA’s remit doesn’t extend to Qatar or the UK. The UK does operate a mandatory reporting scheme that as far as I know is confidential. Unless the report leads to a directive from the Civil Aviation Authority I am not sure we will ever know what happened during the “minor technical incident” on the Thomson plane. And it’s anyone’s guess what the Qataris will reveal about the “minor technical incident” in that country

        If airlines choose to be less than frank to the public about incidents, people will assume airlines are covering something up, even if they are not. Whatever, we can be sure this lack of openness is deliberate.

      • Each country has its own airworthiness authority, but many look to the US, UK, European and Japanese agencies for guidance, especially when it comes to safety.

        I’m not familiar with the exact sequence of events that grounded the 787, but the process worked. It didn’t matter which airworthiness agencies grounded their nation’s 787’s – all fifty airplanes in service at the time were grounded no matter where they were or where they were registered.

  14. Woody :
    Howard, why do you think the A330 tanker should have been ‘in theatre’ for Libya? I know Australia had received A330s before the Libyan conflict but why would the Australian government have got involved and, if they had, why would they have flown A330s all that way? On the other hand, the Italian government did want to get involved, in a support role. So the obvious things to contribute were airfield access and refuelling, which is what they did.

    Because the UK had them too, and it was the UK that was doing the bombing along with the French. The A330 tankers should have been the ones to provide gas for their own units, but the UK had to rely on Italian KC767s. Airbus is the leader of Airwanker, which has thus far fielded a dud tanker that can’t pass gas, can’t go into anything remotely like a hostile airspace for lack of defensive equipment or armor. Something which the UK parliament has noted disparagingly on their own.

    • But, as far as I know, the selection process for the A330 took so long that there would never have been any question of them being available for the Libyan conflict – it happened before their planned entry into service! And there were alternatives available in the form of VC10s and Tristars.

    • Howard, why resort to bad language? I’m sure everyone here already recognises your dislike of anything non Boeing.

      Anyway, the facts. The A330 was cleared for RAF tanking duties only on 16 May 2013 (http://www.flightglobal.com/news/articles/raf-voyager-launches-tanker-operations-with-tornado-386178/). When the initial 2 aircraft arrived in the UK on 18 April 2011 it was for in-country testing only (http://www.flightglobal.com/news/articles/pictures-rafs-first-a330-voyager-lands-in-the-uk-355676/).

      As has been mentioned before, defensive equipment fit is something decided by the MoD. In addition to any possible procurement mistakes, budgets and requirements both evolve over the long period it takes to bring in any new complex system so additions or deletions are always likely. It is right for a legislature to check from time to time what public employees are doing and it’s good that in this case they highlighted these issues.

      As for whether the A330 was the better choice for the RAF than a 767, I’m sure each had advantages and disadvantages against each other. Neither is perfect for everything.

      • The distance between Ascension island and the Falklands is about 3,500 nm. Operation Black Buck told RAF to have a tanker as big as possible.

  15. The A330 tanker was selected by all air forces since it became available. (Italian and Japanese were before and US 767 was selected by congres). Because of performance superiority. No doubt there are some issues with the MRTT. I wonder how serious they are.

    • “US 767 was selected by congres”

      BS! The selection process has been discussed above in this thread, and it was not congress.

      • congress changed the rules when eads won. Value for money was changed to meeting minimum capabilities for the lowest price. Minimum capabilities being equal to KC767 capabilities. The USAF, NG and EADS saw the writing on the wall and moved on. Others tried to rewrite history and moved on.

        • No keesje, Congress did not change the rules when NG/EADS “won” back in 2008. The GAO found the USAF unfairly penalized Boeing. Congress had nothing to do with it. The USAF essentially issued the same requirements in the subsequent, they specified the requirements more clearly in the 2010 KC-X RFP. The DOD even certified EADS so they could compete in the new KC-X program. Even EADS said the 2010 program was fair. Both the KC-45 and KC-46 met the specs, so it came down to price.

      • “The GAO found the USAF unfairly penalized Boeing. Congress had nothing to do with it.”

        Small detail: GOA=congress. http://www.gao.gov/about/index.html

        Congress is more interested in national interest and US jobs. Fair competition and international relations come after that.

        The requirements were changed as I said. EADS, NG and the USAF got the message & and all shared the longer term interest of keeping relations with congress good & get the USAF a tanker to replace the 50 year old KC135s.

        The final selection moved aside real competition. The world saw and knows, and moved on. Apart from a group that prefers both Boeing providing USAF tankers and fair competition. They seem to adjust past realities to make everything fit after all. l7room can at least be honest about it.

      • To make the 767 look more “fuel efficient” fuel consumption was calculated with on average of more than 7 touch & go maneuvers per flight.

        BTW, US Air Force also ordered flight simulators …

        • If the USAF had ordered the A-330, wouldn’t the same average mission fuel consumption calculations apply?

          BTW, simulators are great training tools. But actual aircraft training is still valued by the USAF.

    • keesje :
      The A330 tanker was selected by all air forces since it became available. (Italian and Japanese were before and US 767 was selected by congres). Because of performance superiority. No doubt there are some issues with the MRTT. I wonder how serious they are.

      Yeap, the A-330 is proving its “performance superiority” everyday it is needed to fly a boom refueling mission, isn’t it?

    • Although the GAO “works [for the] US Congress” it investigates independently.

      So, the assumption, “congress changed the rules when eads won,” seems like a red herring argument. Anyway, was the GAO wrong to indicate the USAF gave credit for a larger tanker when the RFP indicated no extra credit would be given?
      We can wonder how that extra credit made it into the evaluation anyway. Was it Congress? K-Street?
      Did USAF Transport Command General General Arthur Lichte engage in some quid pro quo in support of the larger tanker as soon after he was appointed to the board of EADS N America?

      Frankly, I think it unfortunate EADS/Airbus couldn’t offer the A310 or a shortened A330 (somewhat akin to the Luftwaffe’s tankers) for better competition. Yet, the A330MRTT could possibly make good competition for the KC-10’s at some point given the more “Americanization” of Airbus vis a vis their “investment” in a Mobile, Alabama A320 assembly plant. We shall see.

      ————–

      “Small detail: GOA=congress. http://www.gao.gov/about/index.html

      [in part]

      The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) is an independent, nonpartisan agency that works for Congress. Often called the “congressional watchdog,” GAO investigates how the federal government spends taxpayer dollars.

      Our Mission is to support the Congress in meeting its constitutional responsibilities and to help improve the performance and ensure the accountability of the federal government for the benefit of the American people. We provide Congress with timely information that is objective, fact-based, nonpartisan, nonideological, fair, and balanced.

      We support congressional oversight by.
      auditing agency operations to determine whether federal funds are being spent efficiently and effectively;
      investigating allegations of illegal and improper activities;
      reporting on how well government programs and policies are meeting their objectives;
      performing policy analyses and outlining options for congressional consideration; and
      issuing legal decisions and opinions, such as bid protest rulings and reports on agency rules.

    • That is complete and utter BS. Your team lost because they bid too high… Period. It was a low price shoot out, and your glorious Airbus FAILED. Deal with it.

      • Quoting Howard:
        “your glorious Airbus FAILED”
        “and your glorious Airbus has failed”
        “Airbus is the leader of Airwanker”

        Particularly juicy coming from somebody constantly spitting on those Airbus “fanboys” and criticizing them for intervening here.

        Like Scott said – dial it back.

  16. kc135topboom :
    Columbia also has a KC-767-200ER tanker converted by IAI. Poland ordered 2 KC-767-300ERs from IAI, but canceled the order due to budget problems.
    India ordered 6 A-330MRTTs, but later canceled that order.

    Some shifting of goalposts going on here! 767 converted tankers from IAI are not the same as the Boeing offering and it isn’t fair to compare new with used. The Indian Force has since selected the A330 after a further competition (that Boeing didn’t enter) and is in negotiations to purchase.

  17. Strictly speaking you have 5 versions of the two aircraft. KC767J (Japan 4-frames), KC767I (Italy-4), KC-46A (179-frames). The A330MRTT likewise has two variants the UK’s voyager (no refueling boom, 14-frames) and the Aussie, Saudi, UAE aircraft (14-frames) with the booms, which should ultimately make up the bulk of A330MRTT orders. For the KC767 only the Italian variant was a disaster, with the Japanese variant being only 2 years late. For the A330MRTT with refueling boom, it is essentially in the same category as the KC767I, unable to perform its full mission requirements due to issues with its refueling system.

    The two cases are hardly comparable. Yes the K767I was a disaster due to the wing refueling pod flutter issue, but its a one off model with just 4 orders, or about 2% of all Boeing 767 tanker orders. In the case of the A330 MRTT its not a one off variant for a minor operator where the program is crashing. It is the primary variant, which if you include India’s selection and France’s impending selection represent 70% of the orders for the type. There is no comparison between the programs, for the 767 one customer’s fleet of four aircraft experienced major problems. For the A330MRTT the majority of the fleet is experiencing major problems in producing an operation aircraft that meets customer requirements, and even with all A330MRTT orders and potential orders which comes to 48 frames currently, the demand for the aircraft doesn’t come close to the USAF’s KC-46A order.

    • I would say the A-330MRTT only has one major customer, the RAF, with an order for 14 tankers (even though they are leased). If you count the IAF KC-767A (the official MDS for the Italian tanker) as a minor order with just 4 tankers, then you have to count the JSDAF with their 4 KC-767Js. The UAEAF, RSAF, and RAAF all are minor orders of 5 tankers, or less, also.

      Both Canada and Germany, are also minor tanker buyers as Germany only has 4 and Canada only has 2. The other A-310s and CC-150s they operate are pour transports or VIP airplanes.

      Many of the world’s Air Forces will not order either the KC-46/KC-767 or the KC-30/A-330MRTT. Chile picked up 3 KC-135Es a few years ago, and Israel is getting 4-5 USAF KC-135Rs soon (which is cheaper and more readily available the potential B-767 tankers converted by IAI). Turkey and Singapore also fly ex-USAF KC-135Rs.

      My guess is the US will offer more KC-135R/Ts to close allies who will need air refueling capability in the future. The KC-46 may only get one or two more orders, not counting potential additional orders from the USAF. But of the potential 20 or more orders the A-330MRTT could get in the future, offered KC-135Rs and converted B-767s may take a bite out of the EADS order book.

      I noticed no one has asked about converting A-340-500/-600s to tankers.

      • I think though that however you split things up you have as the two primary tanker choices going forward the KC-46A and the A330MRTT with a boom (or KC-30A). The KC-46A has 179 orders on the book, and looks like it is on-time without any significant performance issues. The KC-30A on the other has just 14 firm orders, significant delays, and concerns about its refueling system issues being resolved properly, having lost no fewer than two booms during the limited operational experience it has. Looking ahead the KC-46A has a significant advantage in orders and contract performance over the K-30A.

  18. kc135topboom :
    There was also no competition for the EU countries that “selected” the A-400M. France has already selected the A-330MRTT as their new tanker, without competition. They just have not had the funds to order it yet.

    The Euro Airforces needed a C130/ Transall replacement that could move serious vehicles, NH90s, Tigers etc., land on dirt strips, refill helicopters and fly the crowed civil airways above Europe. It did not exist. Saying the 4x as big & expensive, non tatical C-17 fits the bills is opportunistic non-sense. Euro Airforces bought C-17s and may buy more, but as the strategic transports they are.

    • keesje, you keep denying the C-17 has no tactical airlift capability, but the C-17 in USAF, RAF, RCAF, RAAF, and SAC operation keeps proving you wrong. Even France has used the C-17s capability to land on unprepared strips in Africa for French Forces with airplanes flown by the USAF and RAF.

      • Name me 1 Airforce that replaced 4x as small tactical C130s with $300Mill C-17s or thinks thats smart business..

        • Most C-17 customers either already operate C-130s, or ordered the C-130, too. The French AF claims they are replacing their C-160s with 4X as cargo capable A-400Ms. Have they even taken delivery of the first A-400 yet?
          BTW, the C-17 has a unit flyaway cost of about $210M USD. The A-400M has a unit flyaway cost of $190M USD.
          Don’t bring up that XX air force paid $XXXM USD for the C-17 because those contracts include spares, training, maintenance, and other costs and are a package deal.

      • Your numbers are off: C160 –} A400M is about 2.5 ( and that fits the upsizing of mil vehicles )
        Afaics nobody replaced C130 with C17.

        Then the C17 dropped their cargo about 900km away from the Mali war zone on a bog standard runway.

  19. Howard :

    the UK had to rely on Italian KC767s.

    It is very encouraging to see that the KC-767s are providing the Italian Air Force with the capability it needs. However let’s not be blind to the fact that this particular tanker model faced horrendous delays, linked to the wing flutter issues. But, what do you know, Boeing got stuck in and solved them. Perhaps Airbus need to be afforded extra time in solving their problems? However knowing your anti Airbus agenda, I doubt this thought crossed your mind.
    http://www.aviationweek.com/blogs.aspx?plckblogid=blog:27ec4a53-dcc8-42d0-bd3a-01329aef79a7&plckpostid=blog:27ec4a53-dcc8-42d0-bd3a-01329aef79a7post:f6c748e9-c783-492c-93b6-f1ce3eb7917d

    • UKair :

      Howard :

      the UK had to rely on Italian KC767s.

      It is very encouraging to see that the KC-767s are providing the Italian Air Force with the capability it needs. However let’s not be blind to the fact that this particular tanker model faced horrendous delays, linked to the wing flutter issues. But, what do you know, Boeing got stuck in and solved them. Perhaps Airbus need to be afforded extra time in solving their problems? However knowing your anti Airbus agenda, I doubt this thought crossed your mind.
      http://www.aviationweek.com/blogs.aspx?plckblogid=blog:27ec4a53-dcc8-42d0-bd3a-01329aef79a7&plckpostid=blog:27ec4a53-dcc8-42d0-bd3a-01329aef79a7post:f6c748e9-c783-492c-93b6-f1ce3eb7917d

      Yes both versions of the KC-767 were late to their customers, just like the A-330MRTT. There is just one small difference between the KC-767A/J and the KC-30A. The KC-767s fully worked the day they were delivered.

      • Indeed. In the case of the Italian one it was 6 years later. Your point being?

        • My point is the Italian tankers work, and have from the day they were delivered. The RAAF tankers don’t. The RAAF tankers were also several years late.

          May I ask what your point is?

      • TP, could you point us to some report that shows that the various MRTT330 are incabable of delivering any fuel?
        Beyond the alarmist headline there is nothing in the article referenced by Scott to indicate problems beyond finetuning and imrpoving efficiency.

        The Italian KC767 took 5+ years (first flight of the dedicated frames in 2005) of fixing to bring them into a deliverable state. ( and being good allies the Italians have been mum about any in service problems).
        Finaly there is a strong press selection process that promotes Airbus problems and demotes Boeing issues. ( See the long time of silence over 787 electrics )

        Re the German Luftwaffe A310 ( not the Flugbereitschaft ones that are used for moving politicos ). Starting out from used LH frames these were converted first to MRT ( convertible/mixed passenger / freight / MEDEVAC/field hospital) standard in the 90ties.
        Later all 4 were upgraded to ( hose&droge ) tankers . Reconfigurability over the 4 roles
        is possible on short notice.

        • Uwe, there is a difference between the wing mounted refueling pods and the air refueling boom. The refueling pods (drogues) themselves contain most of the equipment and electronics to conduct air refueling, and are not ‘part’ of the airplane systems, except for the electrical, control, and fuel connections. The boom is part of the airplane, and integrated onto the airplane’s systems. Airbus/EADS does not build the refueling drogue systems used on either the A-310 or A-330 (nor will they build the refueling systems for the A-400M). But they do build the ARBA boom for the A-330.
          Yes the drogue systems can and do provide air refueling capability from the A-330MRTT. But the Airbus designed FBW boom has a history of being uncontrollable and these problems apparently have not been corrected to date. Thus boom refueling from the A-330MRTT is not reliable, and safety is questionable at best. One boom has already been lost during the refueling of a PAF F-16, and the other boom loss was when it was stowed in straight and level flight, apparently.
          Both of these incidents have been well publicized. What has not been made public is the results of the accident investigations from these two separate events.
          Additionally the RAAF KC-30s were suppose to be certified and cleared for boom air refueling in the summer of 2012 (winter months in Australia). That has not happened yet and we are now 1 year later.

  20. keesje :
    “The GAO found the USAF unfairly penalized Boeing. Congress had nothing to do with it.”
    Small detail: GOA=congress. http://www.gao.gov/about/index.html
    Congress is more interested in national interest and US jobs. Fair competition and international relations come after that.
    The requirements were changed as I said. EADS, NG and the USAF got the message & and all shared the longer term interest of keeping relations with congress good & get the USAF a tanker to replace the 50 year old KC135s.
    The final selection moved aside real competition. The world saw and knows, and moved on. Apart from a group that prefers both Boeing providing USAF tankers and fair competition. They seem to adjust past realities to make everything fit after all. l7room can at least be honest about it.

    Congress did not change the rules. As RHHastings pointed out to you in his response using the very link you provided, the GAO is not congress. They give reports to congress and other gov agencies, but congress does not control them. The head guy is a presidential appointee.

    The GAO did not change the rules. The GAO merely determined that the Air Force did not follow its own rules as laid out in the RFP. When the Air Force was forced by OSD to follow its own rules, the Boeing offering won. Too bad for EADS. NG bowed out because they knew the deck was no longer going to be stacked in their favor.

    On a related matter, I disagree with the characterization of all US defense contracts as corporate welfare. The US DoD actually receives something useful for it’s money, at least most of the time. This is unlike welfare where usually no “return on investment” is realized.

  21. “Our Mission is to support the Congress in meeting its constitutional responsibilities and to help improve the performance and ensure the accountability of the federal government for the benefit of the American people.”

    The participants, funding, goals, formulation of research (what to look at, what not) are determined by congress. The tanker competition let to a good laugh in the rest of the world. Everybody was reminded how it really works & how you can construct a legal base around a political decision.

    http://media4.s-nbcnews.com/j/msnbc/Components/Photo_StoryLevel/080618/080618-tanker-hmed-12p.grid-6×2.jpg

    EADS decided not not to order a law agency to go through thousands of pages and create a list of non compliances and file a protest. Because the disavantages would be larger then the advantages. And they want to sell transports, helicopters too in the future. Congress gave a clear signal Airbus was not allowed to bypass Boeing on USAF tankers.

    Something the Boeing political / industrial complex can and will never admit. But it doesn’t really matter. Everybody witnessed what happened and moved on.

    • Perhaps refreshing a look at the GAO report might be in order;

      http://www.defenseindustrydaily.com/KC-X-GAO-Sustains-Boeing-Protest-04936/

      From the official June 18/08 release:

      “The GAO decision should not be read to reflect a view as to the merits of the firms’ respective aircraft. Judgments about which offeror will most successfully meet governmental needs are largely reserved for the procuring agencies, subject only to such statutory and regulatory requirements as full and open competition and fairness to potential offerors. The GAO bid protest process examines whether procuring agencies have complied with those requirements. Specifically, GAO sustained the protest for the following reasons:

      1. The Air Force, in making the award decision, did not assess the relative merits of the proposals in accordance with the evaluation criteria identified in the solicitation, which provided for a relative order of importance for the various technical requirements. The agency also did not take into account the fact that Boeing offered to satisfy more non-mandatory technical “requirements” than Northrop Grumman, even though the solicitation expressly requested offerors to satisfy as many of these technical “requirements” as possible.

      2. The Air Force’s use as a key discriminator that Northrop Grumman proposed to exceed a key performance parameter objective relating to aerial refueling to a greater degree than Boeing violated the solicitation’s evaluation provision that “no consideration will be provided for exceeding [key performance parameter] objectives.”

      3. The protest record did not demonstrate the reasonableness of the Air Force’s determination that Northrop Grumman’s proposed aerial refueling tanker could refuel all current Air Force fixed-wing tanker-compatible receiver aircraft in accordance with current Air Force procedures, as required by the solicitation.

      4. The Air Force conducted misleading and unequal discussions with Boeing, by informing Boeing that it had fully satisfied a key performance parameter objective relating to operational utility, but later determined that Boeing had only partially met this objective, without advising Boeing of this change in the agency’s assessment and while continuing to conduct discussions with Northrop Grumman relating to its satisfaction of the same key performance parameter objective.

      5. The Air Force unreasonably determined that Northrop Grumman’s refusal to agree to a specific solicitation requirement that it plan and support the agency to achieve initial organic depot-level maintenance within two years after delivery of the first full-rate production aircraft was an “administrative oversight,” and improperly made award, despite this clear exception to a material solicitation requirement.

      6. The Air Force’s evaluation of military construction costs in calculating the offerors’ most probable life cycle costs for their proposed aircraft was unreasonable, where the agency during the protest conceded that it made a number of errors in evaluation that, when corrected, result in Boeing displacing Northrop Grumman as the offeror with the lowest most probable life cycle cost; where the evaluation did not account for the offerors’ specific proposals; and where the calculation of military construction costs based on a notional (hypothetical) plan was not reasonably supported.

      7. The Air Force improperly increased Boeing’s estimated non-recurring engineering costs in calculating that firm’s most probable life cycle costs to account for risk associated with Boeing’s failure to satisfactorily explain the basis for how it priced this cost element, where the agency had not found that the proposed costs for that element were unrealistically low. In addition, the Air Force’s use of a simulation model to determine Boeing’s probable non-recurring engineering costs was unreasonable, because the Air Force used as data inputs in the model the percentage of cost growth associated with weapons systems at an overall program level and there was no indication that these inputs would be a reliable predictor of anticipated growth in Boeing’s non-recurring engineering costs.

      The 69-page decision was issued under a protective order, because it contains proprietary and source selection sensitive information. The GAO directed counsel for the parties to promptly identify information that cannot be publicly released so that GAO can expeditiously prepare and release, as soon as possible, a public version of the decision.”

      The Full Decision

      On June 25/08, the redacted decision was made available to the public external link [see also PDF format external link].

    • “The tanker competition let to a good laugh in the rest of the world.”

      I sure hope the “rest of the world” has a better understanding of the GAO than you apparently do.

    • Entertaining to have a discussion about something that happened already & everybody settled around it. But its an old post anyway.

      I think that if Airbus clearly cheated in the first round, was convicted, settled with DoJ, sent its CEO & CFO home and lost the second round against Boeing (remember everybody was enthusiastic about the open & fair 2nd competition until the result was announced), there simply would have been no third round.

      Congress after Boeing lost intervened, NG felt the pressure and dug away. EADS only politely participated in the third round to facilitate the USAF to get a new fleet and congress closing the case in a legal, “fair” way.

      From the horses mouth:
      “After the issue of lifespan costs arose at a congressional hearing in 2008, Dicks helped engineer a change in how the Air Force evaluated the bids between Boeing and its competitor, the European Aeronautic Space and Defense Co., or EADS, the parent company of Airbus.”

      Read more here: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2011/02/25/109469/how-one-lawmaker-steered-tanker.html#.UfZ9eo2ovic#storylink=cpy

      Mr Boeing (“Dicks, known by some on Capitol Hill as “Mr. Boeing,” has received tens of thousands of dollars in contributions for his political campaigns from company sources over his career”.) in congress forced “a change in how the Air Force evaluated the bids between Boeing and its competitor”

      “Asked specifically about the change that Dicks pushed through, Dennis Muilenburg, the president and chief executive officer of Boeing Defense, Space and Security, said it was “an important part of the overall equation.” ”

      If prefer to settle for a feel good story where Boeing beat Airbus with a better, cheaper aircraft after identifying grossly unfair practices in the previous competitions, ignore / forget ASAP and move on.

      • Could it be true, a politician claiming that his efforts saved something? Not exactly a firm foundation for educated opinions.

        By the way, who is this “everybody” that reached a consensus that happens to coincide with your opinion?

  22. Howard :

    Woody :Howard, why do you think the A330 tanker should have been ‘in theatre’ for Libya? I know Australia had received A330s before the Libyan conflict but why would the Australian government have got involved and, if they had, why would they have flown A330s all that way? On the other hand, the Italian government did want to get involved, in a support role. So the obvious things to contribute were airfield access and refuelling, which is what they did.

    The A330 tankers should have been the ones to provide gas for their own units, but the UK had to rely on Italian KC767s.

    I wondered about that, Howard, why would the RAF be relying on the Italian KC-767? Do you have a link that shows this?
    From the information I have found so far, for Operation Ellamy, the RAF has deployed 2 VC-10 tankers and for their own operation, ALA has deployed 6 KC-135s. The Italian tankers were there to support their own operations. Detailed mission breakdown is given here:
    http://documenti.camera.it/leg16/dossier/Testi/di0426_0.htm

    Also I wondered why do you think the FSTA aircraft should have been in action over Libya in 2011, when the specified in service date of the aircraft is in May 2014? Looking at the following link from last November, it seems the refuelling flight trials with Tornado have been completed and the issues identified with the new refuelling pod, designed Cobham, necessitated going to an older version.
    http://www.ainonline.com/aviation-news/ain-defense-perspective/2012-11-23/delays-still-cloud-airbus-a330-tanker-program

    Also from the above link:
    “A senior RAF officer told AIN that “we’ll settle for nothing less than 100 percent functionality…the crunch date is receiving Voyager aircraft with the DAS [defensive aids system], to conduct like-for-like operations.””
    I absolutely support the above and the RAF should demand full functionality at the specified in service date in 2014. Let’s hope Airbus Military will work through the remaining challenges.

    Howard :
    Airbus is the leader of Airwanker…

    At some point you are going to have to decide if you want to engage in a civilised debate… or not all. Funny how you have been very touchy when you felt somebody has attempted to smear Boeing, whereas your postings regarding Airbus show distinct lack of taste.

  23. This blog is becoming a pathetic fanboy club, this is a shame…

    • Right on, CBL. This comment section is the Nancy Grace Show of aerospace blogs.

      • Jack Keller, this website, on April 11, 2013 at 11:16 am #9 “Truly amazing! The 777X isn’t even approved for sales presentations and OV-099 has already determined where major subassemblies and final assembly will take place. Do you Airbus [edited] boys stay up nights thinking this stuff up?”

        If you are not part of the solution, you are a part of the problem. This comment even had to be edited for its vehement “fanboy” language.

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