Odds and Ends: Airbus, Boeing square off on tankers; IAM election; Russian titanium; MH370 hunt and hell

Airbus, Boeing square off on tankers: The Big Two OEMs are bidding for a sale to South Korea on airborne refueling tankers. If we remember correctly, this will be the first head-to-head competition since the USAF from 2004-2009.

IAM election: Voting begins this week, through the month, for officers of IAM International. This is the first contested election in decades, driven in no small part by the bitter vote at Boeing’s IAM 751 district in November and January over the 777X contract. The Street.com takes a look.

Russian titanium: With selective embargoes going on against Russia over Ukraine, we remarked at the time the prospect of an adverse affect on aerospace because titanium is a major resource from Russia and a major component in aerospace. Thus, a headline caught our eye about a Russian who attempted to do a deal with Boeing to sell the company the precious metal. Only this story was a bit more sordid; it makes for an interesting read.

MH370 hunt and hell: Officials vow to hunt for Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370 until hell freezes over. Mean while, more focus on CNN’s 24/7 MH370 coverage and its affect on its own ratings. We did note, however, that the shooting at Ft. Hood actually pushed MH370 off the front page of its website.

79 Comments on “Odds and Ends: Airbus, Boeing square off on tankers; IAM election; Russian titanium; MH370 hunt and hell

  1. the “A350 blog” ( see sidebar ) had a recent notice on A350 titanium parts ( landing gear ) being manufactured in Japan.

  2. If I recall correctly, a few years ago Boeing signed a two billion dollars long term contract with a Russian titanium supplier.

  3. Boeing should have a reasonable chance at winning the ROKAF tanker competition. This will be the first time the KC-46 goes head to head against the bigger and more expensive A-330MRTT for another customer since it won the USAF tanker contract. Boeing could cost some costs by using the KC-767A/J (Italian and Japanese tankers) Boom, rather than the KC-46 Boom, as well as the older technology refueling station. Would the ROKAF need the WARPs?

  4. The ROKAF only has a few F-5s left that would need probe and drogue refueling, and those are all retiring soon. The ROKAF tanker can still keep the centerline drogue if P&D refueling is needed.

    • It is possible that ROKAF orders the F-35A with a probe like Canada because it is faster to refuel two small aircraft at once:
      Navy F-35C will be equipped with a probe. I don’t know anything about the KF-X. Maybe also equipped with a probe.

      Singapore Air Force also has a large fleet of F-15 and F-16 but did order the A330MRTT. Seems like Airbus could convince Singapore that the Airbus boom does work.

      • mhalblaub, I assure you, probe and drogue refueling is not faster than Boom refueling. That is a 2006 report, that was not relevant then, and is not relevant today. It omitted things like the built-in centerline hose reel drogue system on every KC-10. It omits the fact that in the 1980s, SAC, the USAF, and Boeing all looked at installing a hose reel drogue system into KC-135E/R/T tankers. The hose reel was to be installed in the former water injection tank of the KC-135A/Q, between the main landing gear wheel wells. But it was ultimately rejected because of weight. There was no problem with electrical, hydraulic, or fuel connections as they are already within the wheel wells. The SPR manifold is also in the main wheel wells (both sides for the KC-135Q, and the right side for the KC-135A).
        But the fact of the matter is the Boom can put more fuel in less time in any receptacle equipped fighter than one or two drogue baskets can on drogue equipped fighters.
        Been there, done that.

        • How many fighter aircraft can receive more than 450 gallons per minute? The difference between one center hose and two wing pods should be obvious.

  5. A330MRTT is so much better refueling aircraft than KC-46. The last one won the USAF contract only for political reasons. Now ROKAF, South Korea, here Boeing can win again… but I wonder why Boeing didn’t bid on Qatar, UAE, Singapore…

    • Other than the fact the boom keeps breaking off its a great (err transport)

      I note that the Australians called for a US tanker for the MH370 search (for the P8 I assume, something about having a hard time getting their 330s up to speed on fueling).

      That said, they are all commercial aircraft adapted, none is better or worse than the other.

      The US has large numbers of tankers deployed world wide to supply just fuel service be it way stations like Spain and Europe or in theater support for active patrols (Afghanistan). In that case the smaller fuelers work better (they can be in more places at any given time fuel more aircraft and you can’t fuel anyone if you are hauling freight or passengers so its nice to have the US around to do that fill in for you when your tanker is off doing that)

      There are two larger needs, C5 particular that need a lot of fuel from a way station (ergo the KC10s and possibly the A330).

      The other is countries that do not do a lot of fuel but split a lot between moving troops and fueling (UK, Australia) and the large pax haul of the A330 seems to suit them.

      Obviously availability has some bearing, interoperability as well though Australia that tend strongly to US for that did not for their order.

      Ultimately they both work and you may even see a 777 tanker to fill the KC10 gap.

      Its a dance of mission needs, politics, capability etc.

      I continue to find it interesting that the US is supposed to let any foreign entity bid on all US contracts but the US is not allowed to bid on their close off ones. If Europe has a legitimate desire to maintain their industrial base the US does as well.

      In the case of the so called commercial A400, they in fact re-bid the engines from the contest P&W won and awarded it to a company that never existed.

      Despite the ranting, the US Air force did disregard they own specifications when the awarded the tanker bid to Airbus and they adhered to them on the next go around that awarded it to Boeing on meeting those specification and beat Airbus on price (we will know someday if Boeing can actually deliver of course but that is down the road a ways) . I suspect they will put extra emphasis on better bolts to hold on the re-fueling boom.

      • Some strange assumptions.

        “for the P8 I assume”
        RAAF operates only P-3 Orions and they can’t be refueled inflight. The P-8 Poseidon is not delivered by Boeing yet.

        “In that case the smaller fuelers work better (they can be in more places at any given time fuel more aircraft”
        That story was often told by Boeing but is just not correct. The A330MRTT can take off with more fuel from short runways than the KC-46. No the 767-2C is even longer then the 767-200.

        “the large pax haul of the A330 seems to suit them”
        How did the US moved troops and supply to Afghanistan?
        A C-17 can carry 134 passengers,
        a KC-46 114 and
        RAAF’s KC-30 272.

        “a 777 tanker to fill the KC10 gap”
        Well, an A330MRTT can provide as many fuel at long distances or even more than a KC-10.

        “In the case of the so called commercial A400, they in fact re-bid the engines from the contest P&W won and awarded it to a company that never existed. ”
        Was there an international contest for the F-35’s engines?

        “beat Airbus on price”
        It was about a skewed cost calculation for fuel consumption with more than 7 touch&go maneuvers for every mission flown which favored the lighter KC-767.

        • The USAF moves troops to Afghanistan via military charters and CRAF, as well as military aircraft. Moving people via an A-330MRTT means it will not be able to be used as a tanker on that mission.

          “In the case of the so called commercial A400, they in fact re-bid the engines from the contest P&W won and awarded it to a company that never existed. ”
          Was there an international contest for the F-35′s engines?”

          you forgot to mention that not only did the engine OEM not exist, but they did not even have an engine design when they got the contract. In the case of the F-35 engine, the competition was between two established engine OEMs (P&W and GE), and each had an engine design.

          “beat Airbus on price”
          “It was about a skewed cost calculation for fuel consumption with more than 7 touch&go maneuvers for every mission flown which favored the lighter KC-767.”

          Please don’t rewrite history. The day the USAF announced the KC-46 won, the DOD said of the price difference between the KC-46 and KC-45 “it wasn’t even close”.
          BTW, it is not just the traffic pattern work the KC-46 burns less fuel in, but the entire mission from engine start to engine shut down. Compared to the KC-46, the KC-45 was a “gas guzzler”. How come you never mention the fuel capacity between the KC-45 and KC-46 is only about 33,000 lbs, (KC-45=245,000lbs., KC-46=212,300 lbs.) and much of that is needed to be burned by the much heavier airplane and higher thrust engines. How come you don’t mention the A-330MRTT is almost 50% bigger than the KC-46, and will eat up critical ramp space. It is some 60% bigger than the KC-135 and 40% bigger than the KC-10. In fact, had the USAF selected the KC-45, it would have been the second largest airplane by wingspan in the USAF inventory, bigger than the VC-25A/E-4B, and second only to the C-5A/B/C/M. The KC-46 can use existing in ramp fuel pits for the KC-135, but new pits would need to be installed for the KC-45. The KC-46 can use the same hangers the KC-135 uses, the KC-45 needs new hangers built. At joint airports, the KC-45 is an ADG-IV airplane, the KC-46 is an ADG-III airplane needing less free space for imaginary surfaces (CFR-part 77) of runway and taxiway object free areas, safety areas, narrower runways and taxiways. Both can operate on 150′ wide runways and 75′ wide taxiways, but the KC-46 can also operate on runways as narrow as 75′, and taxiways as narrow as 50′. The KC-46 can operate at any airport the KC-45 can, but the KC-45 cannot operate at any airport the KC-46 can.
          BTW, it is a myth the KC-45 can operate on shorter runways at MTOW than the KC-46 can.

          The A-330MRTT is a fine airplane for those countries who’s main objective is moving a few of their own troops (with all 5 KC-30s the RAAF can move about 1200 troops) long distances. But if you need to move cargo and fighter aircraft, then the KC-46 is best. The USAF will put the troops on charters and free up the tanker for the air bridge.

        • “The P-8 Poseidon is not delivered by Boeing yet.”

          It has been reported on Plane Talking and other sites that the USN has a P-8 in the search for MH370 debris. The Australians may not have P-8’s yet but they are already in the US inventory. Apparently the US P-8 could not get refueling support from the Aussies.

        • KC, you still have the old flawed assumptions about the usage of tanker aircraft. The problem of the ancient KC-135 is that this aircraft just is a tanker and in now way could be used efficiently as a troop or cargo mover. Therefore the US Air Force today needs CRAF (Civil Reserve Air Fleet) to move troops. KC-135’s airframes have still much life time left because of rare usage. If you go to buy an expensive item you have to use it to get some value back as soon as possible (interest!).

          The idea for KC-X was to have an aircraft that can do refueling, moving troops and palletized freight. Some call this concept MRTT.

          The point about the aircraft size is mood. I guess therefore the US have some combat engineers. Also the small air fields are without any use without a fuel depot nearby. That is the real factor. No fuel, no tanker. Try to name one small air field with a big fuel depot nearby.

          The peak usage for tanker aircraft doesn’t overlap much with the usage for moving troops or cargo. Try to explain to a mother why her dead son was seating in a CRAF aircraft while US-MRTT aircraft with LAIRCM were sitting on the tarmac.

          • You don’t seem to understand the military value of the tanker mission. Any aircraft that has the tanker mission as a secondary mission becomes less of military value. If moving troops and cargo is the priority, then there are better suited aircraft designed and built for that purpose.
            What makes any tanker less efficient in moving cargo and troops isn’t the size of the airplane, it is the weight and placement within the airplane of carrying the air refueling equipment.
            BTW, the KC-135 can carry up to 83,000 lbs. of cargo, and is capable of carrying up to 220 troops in an emergency. However ‘normal’ cargo loads are about 6 pallets and 83 troops.
            I personally have carried more than 60,000 lbs. of cargo on a mission in the KC-135A, plus 100,000 lbs. of fuel for an 8 hour mission. We could have refueled on that mission, but a refueling wasn’t scheduled.
            There has never been a CRAF aircraft shot down because they do not fly directly into the combat area.
            Modern US combat operations require two things to be successful:
            1. Troops
            2. Equipment
            Therefore each movement is actually two separate phases. The tankers establish an air bridge to move the equipment (fighters, bombers, reccee, cargo containing aircraft), the “bullets and beans” if you will. In separate aircraft are the troops. Usually the troop aircraft take-off first because they will need to stop enroute for refueling. The tankers will actually deploy a few days before the CRAF to bases along the route to establish the air bridge, as well as the destination of the deployment. Then during the actual deployment they refuel the other aircraft enroute for a non-stop, or one stop (due to crew duty day limitations) deployment of all the equipment.
            In order for all of this to work, the tankers cannot be weighed down with troops and cargo.
            The tankers that deploy to the destination base will carry some troops and equipment to support the tankers and be ready to receive other aircraft and equipment.

        • KC,

          As we’re talking about Korean AF requirements here rather than USAF, don’t you think that there’s a chance that they will want the most flexible aircraft for their money? Just like all the other air forces that have selected the A330, they may not have fleets of troop-carrying planes, or they may not need tankers all the times, and that is why they have opted for the plane that has greater all round capacity. I don’t doubt your experience in the USAF, but different air forces are, well, different in their needs!

          • I understand that, Roger. But the ROK has not deployed troops in significant numbers since the Vietnam War, and with the DPRK next to them it appears unlikely in the near and mid term future. But they do need a tanker for their ROKAF F-15s, F-4s, E-737, P-8s, etc.

  6. I expect ROKAF will take KC-46 for compatibility with USAF. Allows USAF aircraft to easily deploy from ROK bases and vice versa. Might ease purchase of F-35s through as well. Lets say if they choose A330-MRTT I would regard it as an embarrassment for Boeing and the selection process.

    • I wouldn’t necessarily call it an embarassment rather than an achievement by Airbus Military to break into that market.

      And BNZ: don’t know where you got that information about the A330MRTT being so much better, since it has had problems actually REFUELING aircraft:



      Has some problems, but it is flying, though! They’ll work it out.

      • How long did it take Boeing to reach “deliverable” state on the japanese ( and italian ) 767 tankers ? ( The self assayed leader of the (tanker) pack.)
        Also the Australians talk about under appreciating problems during introduction into service and issues with spares logistics. Nothing said about the product being principally unfit for the task set like the japanese tankers.

        • Uwe, if you can provide a link to the KC-767A being “principally unfit for the task” for the JSDF I’d greatly appreciate it.

          However, I’m sure it didn’t have a problem with the boom coming off the aircraft…TWICE! as was the case with the A330MRTT.

          Like I said, the A330MRTT will get there.

      • Classic British Tabloid journalism at work here: Google seems to show that the Tornado has always been a tricky receiver. Suspect that disinformation of this sort will become frequent as the A versus B tanker duels heat up.

        • Isn’t it funny how the Tornado does not have a problem refueling from VC-10s, KC-135s, KC-10s, and KDC-10s? I have refueled RAF and German Tornados, and never had a problem with leaks, or anything else.
          The fact remains that 10 years after the A-330MRTT/KC-30/Voyager was first ordered (RAAF ordered it in 2004), it still doesn’t work as a tanker.

      • Boeing needed ~3years to fix the flutter induced by the low speed Cobham refuelling pods. IMHO the decission to use the low speed variant made it principally unfit.
        A problem defined by material choice.

        • Oh, so it was “your opinion”, even though they were tanking fuel and refueling aircraft, in spite of the flutter problem. So nothing from the JASDF about “unfit for the task?” Got it.

        • ” … even though they were tanking fuel and refueling aircraft, in spite of the flutter problem …”
          At significantly reduced speeds. The Japanese Self Defence Force didn’t accept them for a reason. Again if you have to fiddle with a design for 3 years it obviously started out as designed unfit for the task. Just like the 787 was unfit for the task as rolled out.

        • “Again if you have to fiddle with a design for 3 years it obviously started out as designed unfit for the task.”

          By that definition the A330MRTT is unfit for the task because the boom still doesn’t work.

        • Well the Cobham pods on the KC-45/KC-30/Voyager/A-330MRTT is still having basket trailing problems and basket stability problems. Airbus has been working on that problem since 2007. Then there is the issue with the “fly away Boom”. After 10 years the A-330MRTT still isn’t operationally refueling mission ready. The KC-767A/Js are.

        • Not that I have a dog (err tanker) in the fight, but I do believe some detached observations are in order.

          Boeing for all its PR had not actually build a tanker since the KC10 in a universe far away when MD was the last one to build a new tanker (Tri Star mods more recent?)

          So for all practical purposes, Boeing and Airbus started new, and both have fallen on their face to varying degrees. Booms have fallen off as noted and Boeing had a flutter issue.

          Not mentioned was the fact that for the US use, a very small percentage of the time did the tanker carry freight or people (tending to when they dragged a squadron out to the far reaches of the world). Once in theater the bird went to tanking and support was run by the MAC (yes I am old school) using owned and rented assets.

          For the US current replacement program the MRT did not make sense and it had negatives. Note that Airbus did make some A300 (or 310MRTs) that might have been more suited but they stopped produciton on that version.

          Airbus elected to put their money into the A330, Boeing stuck with the 767 and for the immediate needs and the bid purposes Boeing was the clear winner on price, Airbus admitted as much so thats not in dispute. You can argue the fit, but Boeing clearly met all the criteria and there was no bonus for carrying surplus fuel.

          For most of the missions, the KC1325 returns with 30% to 60% of its fuel. Ergo said excess fuel is useless most of the time.

          The 767 is also vaslty more economical simply by being smaller, less thrust engines and carrying less fuel. Unless you gain something carrying excess fuel is a cost not a benefit.

          That does not mean that there are not missions excess fuel is not a bonus, but fleet flexibly also has a huge advantage and you can simply bring in more fuelers along the routes and refuel multiple times and still maintain your flexibility (and unlike most powers, the US has commitments across the entire planet) .

          If all you had was a A330, then you would make it work. In this case you don’t have to and the fist replacement get the USAF what it needs (or wanted, the existing KC135s have low hours and not a lot of yearly use, though they have long term maint issues to be kept on top of which they are doing nicely and you could simply upgrade them for the avionics needs, most if not all flying ones have upgraded engines)

          Its not a one size fits all needs, no one aircraft is superior to others (some do it better, some worse, none of them were designed from the ground up for the mission as its not cost effective when a decent solution works).

          The tendency has been for the scatter use to the A330MRT as long term it seems to be what the small air forces want (or need). Some air forces the 767 will suit (Japan needs more of them and they don’t have out of theater support). Korea may be the same, Australia and others felt different and it will ebb and flow as politics plays a role as well.

        • Topboom, some time ago in a discussion here you had to conceed that the US Airforce looses a boom or two every year in a well established and highly experienced environment.
          You should maybe hug reality a bit closer.
          ( amusing in this context the breathless A.net discussion over Boeing building a set of more or less bog standard 767 airframes to be fitted out as tankers. Reading you get the impression this is technology and achievement wise still another step beyond the 787.)

        • @TransWorld
          You also have the tanker only aircraft in mind when talking about efficiency.
          “The 767 is also vaslty more economical simply by being smaller, less thrust engines and carrying less fuel.”
          That might be true for refueling only aircraft. How will your economics change then one aircraft can move twice as much cargo or troops as the other?

          “For most of the missions, the KC1325 returns with 30% to 60% of its fuel. Ergo said excess fuel is useless most of the time.”
          A KC-135 returning with zero fuel would glide. I also guess the tankers carry a reserve in case some tanker have problems.

          This figures might be true for Irak War but what would happened at the Pacific theater? You may know about operation Black Buck and why the UK then wanted a real big tanker aircraft.

  7. “The air force is doing what it can to assist Boeing in foreign military sales and direct commercial sales,” said Gen. Thompson at a congressional hearing on Wednesday.

    Will they Bomb Toulouse?

  8. Pending the way the UltraFreighter (UF) is designed range-wise, on East-West long-range freight airbridge operations with UFs optimised for Medium Range, conceivably swarm, V (gooseflock) or queue-leu-leu formation flying are possible bio-optimal solutions … in such case, in-flight refuelling, of eg five or more freighters one after the other by the same tanker makes sense, to amortize commercial in-flight tankering @ a group rdv, somewhere mid-way on the China-Europe routes …

  9. The tanker decision is related to several topics.
    For political reasons the winner would be the KC-46.
    For economics the winner would be a 767 conversion by IAI like Brazil.
    For capability the A330MRTT would be the winner. With no other aircraft RoKAF can quickly move as many US troops and supplies from Okinawa or Guam to Korea.

    About the Airbus boom:
    “We expect the boom to complete testing and undergo acceptance around third quarter of 2014.”, RAAF Air Vice-Marshal (AVM) Chris Deeble

    • So until then, the A330MRTT is “combat ineffective”. Roger that.

    • Here fixed it for you.

      For capability the A330MRTT would be the winner.

      And from your earlier post.
      “:That might be true for refueling only aircraft. How will your economics change then one aircraft can move twice as much cargo or troops as the other?”

      No one disagrees that the A330 is better passenger/ troop mover. That however has nothing to do with how it performs as a tanker or even moving cargo since the A330 MRTT is based on the pax version of the A330 not the A330F. The current version of the A330 doesn’t move anywhere close to twice as much cargo as the KC-46 and with its passenger rated floor and downward sloping stance the cargo compartment really isn’t suitable for handling large amounts of cargo, the KC-46 is much more suited for this role with its large cargo door and strengthened floor.

        • Exactly! And that is where the name is derived from: MRTT, for Multi Role Tanker Transport. That would make the KC-46 a TT, for Tanker Transport only. I think that is the main reason why the US Air Force preferred the KC-45 over the KC-46 before the Great Recession invited itself in the debate.

          • Ahh no. Any airplane designed and built for more than one mission is, by definition “multi-role”. You calling the KC-46 a “TT” supports the fact it is “multi-role” The USAF MDS (mission, design, series) K-C-45 and K-C-46 define both aircraft as a tanker (K) cargo (C). This same MDS is used by the RAAF.
            Both aircraft are capable of air refueling (tanker and receiver), hauling cargo, carrying troops, and aeromedical evacuation. Additionally, the USAF now says the KC-46A will pick up the “Smart Tanker” mission from the KC-135. Smart Tanker is a sort of mini airborne command post. It is palletized equipment for the main cargo deck. Since the A-330MRTT/KC-30/Voyager does not have a main deck cargo door, it cannot do the Smart Tanker mission. Yes, I know the cargo door is an option, but nobody has ordered it. The A-330MRTT also lacks a true cargo strength floor. That too is an option, along with the extended nose landing gear from the A-330F, to make the airplane level for cargo loading and unloading operations. With just the cargo door operation, and no A-330F cargo floor and nose gear, loading and uploading rolling stock like ground support equipment would be hazardous to the cargo loading troops. Yes, rolling stock cargo is carried by tankers, as well as dedicated cargo aircraft.
            So, I guess you can say the KC-45 is actually LESS capable when it’s role is expanded into the several secondary missions, than the KC-46 is. Many countries than purchased the A-330MRTT do it primarily for troop transport and belly cargo, and air refueling has become the secondary mission. So should the MDS be changed to “CK-45”?

        • Look at the A310 MRT(T) as used by the German Airforce for what capabilities the A330 MRTT has. pax, freight, MedEvac, tanker, …. all on a quick change resp. parallel base.
          US use is the most limited application thinkable. Depending on how you judge this is either due to a limited task or captured thinking ala Sapir-Whorf.

          • Really? The US uses its current tanker fleet as follows:
            Heavy air refueling tanker*
            Air refueling mission initial trainer
            Medium lift cargo***
            Troop Transport
            Aeromedical evacuation
            Smart Tanker-Command and Control
            20 multi-point WARP equipped tankers**

            Heavy air refueling tanker
            Heavy lift cargo
            Troop Transport
            Aeromedical evacuation
            20 multi-point equipped tankers**

            * only the A-330MRTT, IIAF KC-747, and KDC/KC-10 exceeds the amount of fuel carried and off-load capability of the KC-135. There are only a handful of operational KC-747 and KDC-10 tankers, and no fully operational A-330MRTTs

            ** either the multi-point KC-135 or the multi-point KC-10 fleet exceed the combined numbers of all other countries in the world, except the UK.

            *** when the C-141B/Cs were wearing out in the late 1990s and early 2000s, and many were in heavy depot maintenance, it was the KC-135 fleet that picked up the slack in cargo airlift.

        • kc135topboom:
          “The A-330MRTT also lacks a true cargo strength floor. That too is an option, along with the extended nose landing gear from the A-330F, to make the airplane level for cargo loading and unloading operations. […]
          So should the MDS be changed to “CK-45″?”

          Dear KC,
          Airbus can offer the A330MRTT in different versions to costumers. RAAF’s KC-30 has airline seating and belly cargo because that version is cheaper than a version with cargo floor and palletized seating. A KC-46 with airline seating won’t work because a costumer would have no option to move palletized cargo at all. The Italian and Japanese KC-767 have such an option but they carry more than 20 t less fuel.

          If South Korea wants an aircraft with a leveled cargo floor Airbus can offer it.

          I think is RoKAF is well aware of the fact that many Boeing military aircraft were delayed like P-8, Wedgetail or KC-767I/J. According to RAAF the boom will get the Australian certification this year. South Korea can decide to get an operational tanker soon or a tanker “ready from day one” but without a hint when “day one” will be.

          “So, I guess you can say the KC-45 is actually LESS capable when it’s role is expanded into the several secondary missions, than the KC-46 is.”

          Sorry but “is” is not the correct tense as long as the KC-46 is not in the air with limited IOC. “will be” could fit. The KC-45 for the US tanker competition was offered according to the specs with a cargo floor. Therefore the offered KC-45 was in no way less capable than the KC-46.

          • The KC-45 offer also included the A-330F cargo door, but not the A-330F nose gear. The heavier nose gear would have had an adverse effect on the CG because the USAF also wanted an armored cockpit.
            The USN P-8A program was on time and actually slightly under budget. The RAAF Wedgetail was delayed because of the NG radar equipment, not the airframe. The ROKAF already has their version of the Wedgetail (called the E-737) in service, but not all four have been delivered AFAIK. The KC-767A/Js are all in service and fully operational with no post production refueling system problems, something the KC-30A cannot say. BTW, the RAAF also predicted the KC-30s Boom would be operational last year, too, by 31 December 2013. But, one of the reasons why the KC-30 did not receive IOC soon after delivery was because it took EADS some 15 months to write the flying and maintenance manuals. Boeing begins writing those manuals during the flight testing phase, not after it. Any changes that need to be incorporated into those manuals as a result of the flight testing are made as needed.
            If the ROKAF selected the A-330MRTT today, as it is currently built, the first airplane would not be delivered until the first KC-46 could be delivered to them due to production slot timing on the FAL and mod center. If the ROKAF ordered options on the A-330MRTT that no other customer has ordered, like the “F” model nose gear, cargo floor, and cargo door, all of that would need to be flight tested. They would also to decide on the armored cockpit, or not.
            On the KC-46 side of things, they could order the USAF version, or a lesser version without the armored cockpit and the Boeing KC-10 style Advanced Boom (GEN7), opting for the KC-135 style Advanced Boom (GEN6) on the KC-767A/J. They could also opt for the B-767-200ER airframe, or go with a B-767-300ERF airframe, or the B-767-2C airframe.
            I have not seen the ROK specs. from their RFP yet. So, I don’t know what they really want. I assume some type of self defense (LAIRCM, AN/AAQ-24(V), AN/AAR-54, Flairs, etc.) may be part of the RFP, since the ROK and DPRK are still in a “state of war”.
            The USAF version of the KC-46 will have LAIRCM, AN/AAQ-24(V), AN/AAR-54, and possibly other self defense systems. All four of the USAF flight test KC-46s are now in production at some level (two initially will be B-767-2Cs, the other two will be full configuration KC-46s).

        • KC, I can’t see your points.
          “The KC-45 offer also included the A-330F cargo door, but not the A-330F nose gear.”
          That wasn’t a requirement. So what? The specification was about the time used to load or unload the aircraft.

          “The KC-767A/Js are all in service and fully operational with no post production refueling system problems, something the KC-30A cannot say.”
          Italian KC-767A was delivered with a delay of 6 years!

          “If the ROKAF ordered options on the A-330MRTT that no other customer has ordered, like the “F” model nose gear, cargo floor, and cargo door, all of that would need to be flight tested.”
          Tell that to Qatar or Turkish Airlines. They already fly the A330-200F.

          “Boeing KC-10 style Advanced Boom (GEN7), opting for the KC-135 style Advanced Boom (GEN6) on the KC-767A/J.”
          According to my knowledge the current boom was insufficient for US Air Force. So Boeing offered a new variant. In case RoKAF orders the KC-46 they will order the same boom as US Air Force.

          “The USAF version of the KC-46 will have LAIRCM, AN/AAQ-24(V), AN/AAR-54, and possibly other self defense systems.”
          Do you think Northrop Grumman won’t sell this system to Airbus as they have already done for several other aircraft, e.g. German Air Force A340?

          “All four of the USAF flight test KC-46s are now in production at some level (two initially will be B-767-2Cs, the other two will be full configuration KC-46s).”
          You can call me then the first “full configuration KC-46” gets fully operational.

          • No one has yet ordered the A-330 tanker with all the cargo bells and whistles from the “F” model, although they are options.
            “Tell that to Qatar or Turkish Airlines. They already fly the A330-200F.”
            That’s funny, I did not know those airlines flew the A-330MRTT-F model. That is not the same as certifying the tanker version with all the “F” version bells and whistles. Nor is it the same as certifying the A-332F with all
            The RAAF tankers have the LAIRCM, I don’t know about the RAF, or any other A-330 tankers ordered with it, but it is an option.
            “Boeing KC-10 style Advanced Boom (GEN7), opting for the KC-135 style Advanced Boom (GEN6) on the KC-767A/J.”
            “According to my knowledge the current boom was insufficient for US Air Force. So Boeing offered a new variant. In case RoKAF orders the KC-46 they will order the same boom as US Air Force.”
            The GEN6 Boom is one of two current offerings from Boeing. The GEN6 Boom is good for up to 900-1,000 GPM. The GEN7 Boom is good up to 1200 + GPM. The ROKAF has nothing in their fleet that needs a 1200 GPM Boom, except the tanker they order, or any allied aircraft they may refuel. So a GEN6 Boom will suit their current and future needs, and will cost slightly less.
            “Italian KC-767A was delivered with a delay of 6 years!”
            The Australian KC-30 was delayed 4+ years.
            But the KC-767A was delivered fully operational, the KC-30 still isn’t, and it has been 10 years now since they were ordered. The RAAF Wedgetail took less time to become operational, and that is a much more complicated airplane than any tanker is.
            “You can call me then the first “full configuration KC-46″ gets fully operational.”
            2017Q4, as scheduled.
            The issue with the A-330F nose gear is it is needed to have a level main cargo deck for cargo load/unload operations. Without it the man deck sits nose down by about 1-1.5 degrees, depending on the weight of the airplane.

        • According delays:
          The 4 KC-30 was expected for delivery between 2008 and 2010.
          The 5th KC-30 was delivered in December 2012.
          That is a delay of 2 years.
          In 2013 at least one aircraft was in service:
          http://www.news.com.au/national/pm8217s-afghanistan-visit-cost-total-of-810000/story-fnho52ip-1226700144212 (No fully operational, I know).

          Delivery for the Italian KC-767A was expected for 2005. The first tanker was delivered in 2011 to Italy.

  10. With memories of my fathers RAF tales of climbing in & around post war RAF airframes I’ve just completed a nostalgia trip to see how reasonable & cost effective IFR can be, the case in point is yes, the RAF

    Vickers Valliant’s, Handley Page Victors, Vickers VC10, Lockheed Tristar’s all have contributed exemplary service at by modern day standards minimal conversion cost. Sadly the latter of the two were withdrawn from service in the last four months.

    Following my fathers example some years ago I entered the UK aeronautical industry & I am now in a position to confirm the serviceability & capabilities of the A330 MRTT whilst not without it’s embryonic problems its widely accepted as the most effective, flexible IFR platform & has become the airframe of choice,

  11. Checked my sources – the Tornado has been fully cleared for about four months: Turns out this Daily Mail “report” is a badly understood account of some debate over the relative merits of the Cobham or Fletcher drogues which seem to vary in efficacy depending on the receiving aircraft (was explained to an ignoramus like me that it is a function of the fuselage profile – whatever that means). And yesterday the Typhoon was cleared. So in effect the story is the usual load of rubbish that accumulate when airframes compete and newspapers are too dumb to distinguish fact from gush.

    • The Tornado was cleared after money was spent to modify the latch system within the drogue to assure a tight seal for fuel transfer.
      The receiver fuselage profile does have an effect on how the drogue “flies” as the receiver approaches for a contact. But that effect is minimal as the weight of the drogue itself will help to stabilize it within the slipstream.

  12. @Uwe

    The RCAF has five A310, two of which are configured as MRTT. Any country in the would would want to do that, including United States. As a matter of fact the US Air Force had decided they wanted a true MRTT, not a simple TT.

    The reason why the US Air Force wanted the KC-45 is obvious. Its fleet of KC-135 is very old but has low hours on them. That is what we call underutilisation. The only countries that wanted to buy the KC-46 are Japan and Italy, and they did so for the same reason United-States did, despite the US Air Force preference for the KC-45. It is not a coincidence that Japan and Italy happen to be major industrial partners of Boeing.

    I think it is obvious that no Air Force anywhere on the planet wants the KC-46. Not because it is a bad aircraft, but because it is a bad investment.

    • The RCAF calls their two A-310 tankers the CC-150Ts, they don’t call them MRTTs. The remaining 3 A-310s are transports, essentially still in their airliner configurations.
      In the 2008 KC-X competition most of the tanker crews wanted the, then KC-767AT. Only Gen. Lichte wanted the KC-45 and that is because he wanted a position on the NG BOD. The GAO threw out that competition because Gen. Lichte did not treat both competitors, Boeing and NG/EADS, fairly and equally.
      The KC-135 fleet is only underutilized if you compare it to an airline fleet. Compared to other tanker fleets, which are small to very small, it does not fly as many hours per year because there are more of the KC-135s. The USAF KC-135 fleet usage compares favorably with the French, Singapore, and Turkey KC-135 fleets, as well as the KC-767Js in Japan.
      Why is it obvious no one else wants the KC-46? As you said three air forces have ordered it. It is now in its first competition with the A-330MRTT since the USAF 2011 KC-X competition in South Korea. Yet, you want to throw the used A-310s in just for good measure, a total of 10 airplanes (6 are tankers, 4 are pure transports, 1 RCAF is a VIP aircraft), but don’t mention the used KC-767MMTT/KC-X2s (Columbia converted 1 B-767-200ER, Brazil ordered 2 B-767-300ERs for conversion, all by IAI) in use or on order. No air force wants the lone A-310MRTT Airbus uses for its test bed tanker. In fact no air force has ordered converted A-310-200/-300s into tankers since the German and Canadian orders.
      France will (or already has) select the A-330 as their next tanker, without a competition. No matter how you feel about the 3 KC-X competitions the US held, at least they did have competitions. France and most of the EU also selected the A-400M also with out a competition against the C-130J and/or C-17A. They also rejected the EADS selected P&W of Canada engine just so a European engine, that did not exist, built by a company that did not exist could be used. That cost the A-400M 5 years in EIS.
      Europeans like to criticize the US for its military competitions, when they don’t even hold than.

      • The 767 was a good aircraft in its days, but if it was not of Washington’s “Invisible Hand” all the tooling would have been scrapped already.

        I am glad that you bring the A400M into the discussion because it is indeed another case where the competition was won by another country and the government decided to intervene to accommodate its own industry. But normally political intervention of this nature would be carried out more diplomatically. If the French did not want a competition they should have said it upfront, not after the fact.

        In the case of the KC-45 it is more complicated because there was no major problem with the USAF decision until the cowboys of Wall Street put the world economy in grave danger. Something drastic had to be done to save the US industry. I will never blame the US government for having done that. It remains a fair game because all governments do it everywhere, all the time.

      • Also the Australian RAAF calls their Airbus A330MRTT just KC-30A.

        The C-130 is to small to accept most of the current armored vehicles in use according to seize and weight. Just the M113 still fits inside the C-130. Stryker and Bradley are both now to big. The A400M can carry the heavier PUMA and other vehicles. The C-17 can carry that too but not heavy loads to unpaved runways. The low hanging jet engines will suck in far more dirt than the turboprop engines. The C-17 guzzles about twice as much fuel as the new tankers or the A400M.

        • The A-400M cannot carry heavy loads to unprepared airfields, either.

          The C-17 has been flying into and out of dusty, dirt, and unprepared runways for years now. It has had few, if any FOD issues with its P&W-2040 engines during those ops.

        • “The A-400M cannot carry heavy loads to unprepared airfields, either.”
          Just because you say it?

          The difference between the C-17 and the A400M is obvious. Both have the same number of wheels on the main landing gear but the C-17 is about twice as heavy.
          According to ACN the C-17 needs the same runway pavement as a B747-SP.

          Tire pressure C-17: ~120 psi
          Tire pressure A400M: ~60 psi

          This is from an Airbus site:
          “The A400M is therefore able to land on, and take-off from, any short, soft and rough unprepared CBR 6 airstrip, no longer than 750 m / 2,500 ft, while delivering up to 25 tonnes / 55,000 lb of payload, and with enough fuel on board for a 930 km / 500 nm return trip.”

          Low hanging engines in dusty environments is not only about a direct FOD hit, it is also a cause for severe abrasion to the blades.

  13. @ topboom

    The days when the US Air Force needed a large fleet of KC-135 to keep in the air 24 hours a day a squadron of B-52, as a deterrent to a USSR attack, are long gone.

    • Note, the full Cuba crisis started with deployment of Jupiter missiles in Eastern Italy and Turkey and ended with their withdrawal 6 month after the publicly visible hostilities ended.

      • Just a minor correction, Uwe. The Jupiter missiles did not start the Cuban Missile Crisis. I lived through that as a boy living in a Cuban Missile targeted city around Boston. The Russians were not very concerned about the Jupiters, and they knew where they were. The Russians knew we would not launch a first strike. They wanted an ace in the hole with placing operational IRBM in Cuba. Cuba did not have a choice in accepting those missiles and Russian crews.
        Read all about it in the book “The Missiles of October”.

        • I was at university when it happened and fell for the ‘US triumph over Russian aggression’ nonsense that followed. The only ‘triumph’ was that Russian allowed Kennedy to save face by withdrawing their missiles a few months before the US withdrew its Jupiters. It is utter nonsense to think that the Russians were ‘not very concerned about the Jupiters’ or that they ‘knew we would not launch a first strike’. The rest of the world (I was in the UK and Canada at the time) being unhappy listeners to the ludicrously proactive comments of LeMay and other US military leaders were convinced that the US would by intent or accident first strike. Of course today we know that Strategic Command failures were the most likely but not then.

          • Gen Lemay was CSAF in October 1962, not CINCSAC. But he built the Strategic Air Command into the single most powerful military unit in the history of man. SAC assets in 1962 included over 700 B-52s, and the B-52H was in the final year of B-52 production, and 1200 B-47s. The SAC tanker fleet had about 550 KC-135s and another 550 KC-97s. It was fielding the Minuteman I and Titan II missiles, and earlier missiles were scheduled for retirement, along with the remaining B-50 bombers (the B-36s were already retired). In addition to SAC, the Navy had several SSBNs capable of launching SLBMs from any ocean. TAC had more than 500 fighters on alert.
            So, we did not need the Jupiter missiles. The Russian IRBMs based in Cuba were a serious threat to SAC, as well as the entire nation. The IRBMs gave the Russians a first strike capability that SAC could not survive. Thus the nation would be almost undefended from a further Russian strike. The missiles had to go, one way or the other.
            Gen. Lemay told President Kennedy he could destroy 90% of the Russian missiles, support equipment, air defenses, and Russian crews in 72 hours. Killing the Russian crews was the unacceptable part to President Kennedy. The US Army and US Marines were preparing to invade the island of Cuba (OPLAN-316). But there was no other way except for diplomacy, and the “quarantine” by the Navy.
            The missiles that the USSR deployed to Cuba were the SS-4 (R-12U) missile with a 2000-3000 km range carrying a 2.3 MT thermonuclear warhead. The SS-4 had a CEP of about 2 km with its autonomous inertial guidance system. The threat was very real to the US, southeastern Canada, all of Central America, and the northern half of South America.
            President Kennedy was right when he announced “any attack by missiles launched from Cuba will be considered as an attack upon the United States and will require a full military response launched upon the Soviet Union”. Kennedy place all US Military Forces, worldwide on DEFCON-3, and SAC went to DEFCON-2, which it is authorized to do automatically by former President Eisenhower and the Congress in the event the US, SAC, or any military unit was threatened with deployment of nuclear weapons.
            The Soviet shoot down of Maj. Anderson’s U-2F on 27 October 1962 almost triggered a nuclear war. Premier Khrushchev had previously issued orders that no U-2s would be shot down over Cuba. But SA-2 batteries manned by Cubans and Russians, and two more manned by Russians alone fired a total of 6 SAMs at the U-2F. According to the Russians later, Maj. Anderson maneuvered his U-2F and avoided 5 of the 6 SA-2s fired. If that last missile had missed the U-2, none would, as the U-2 would be out of range. Premier Khrushchev had issued orders to Lt.Gen. Pliyev, the Soviet commander in Cuba, to instruct all of his batteries not to shoot down any U2s on 25 October. But not all the batteries got the orders.
            What is not widely known is that Castro was PO’d at being left out by Khrushchev and Kennedy, and threatened to send his IL-28 bombers to drop nuclear weapons on US soils. The USSR threatened Cuba that if they did that, all Soviet support for the island nation would be withdrawn. Also, the U-2 was not the only aircraft lost by the US. 3 RB-47E/Hs and a C-135B were lost in accidents supporting US operations, killing a total of 20 crewmembers. The Soviet Navy SSK B-59 (Foxtrot class) was forced to the surface by 11 US Navy DDs (and 1 CV) dropping practice depth charges (low energy explosives) and because its batteries ran very low on power and shut down the air conditioning system, they were running out of breathable air. B-59, thought the USN was attacking them and was preparing to fire 15 KT nuclear torpedoes at the US warships.
            There is still a lot of details the US, USSR, and now Russia has not publicly reveled.
            Okay, I’ll get off my soap box now. Sorry for the history lesson.

      • Uwe I have to agree with TB, the missiles in Italy and Turkey have nothing to do with the Cuban crisis. If the American missiles in Europe were some kind of provocation then the Russian missiles in Cuba were more like an invasion. But that was more than fifty years ago.

        • The Jupiter’s were going to be withdrawn two years after the crisis anyway. The withdraw of the Jupiter’s 18 months early was simply a face saving measure that Kennedy offered to Krushchev. The Russians real concern in 1963 where the nearly 1,800 nuclear armed bombers that SAC maintained. Russia had only a few troublesome ICBMs that could reach the US and a few bombers that could reach the Continental United States on a one way trip at the time. It was this disparity that drove them to seek a short term fix by putting missiles in Cuba.

        • @ John

          And the Americans knew about the disparity in great details because a soviet agent had told them everything they needed to know. So the Americans knew and the Soviets knew that the Americans knew. The rest, like you say, was just diplomatic face saving. But, like I said earlier, this was more than fifty years ago. And it is the kind of digression our host will not tolerate much longer. So let’s call it off.

    • So if you had your force of B-52s and KC 135s Topboom, who would you bomb now? Russia? Crimea?

      What would it get you?

      • Don’t get me wrong. I just don’t think such deterrence is as effective in today’s world.

  14. B-52s and B-2s on airborne alert orbiting close to a possible enemy would still be effective, if supporting naval and air force units can be used, too. This type of operation could be a deterrent to countries like the DPRK and Iran, but only if those countries “leadership” think the targets include themselves, not just other parts of the country and its citizens.

  15. @ topboom

    The other large USAF aircraft like the C5A and C17, do they have an armoured cockpit as well? And what about the KC135?

    • I don’t know if newer cargo aircraft like the C-17A/ER and C-130J/J-30 are armored or not. But I know it was a RFP requirement for the KC-X in both 2008 and 2011.
      The C-5 and KC-135 do not have armored cockpits.
      In 2011 the KC-135, which until that point never had any self defenses, started having the NG Guardian System AAQ-24(V) DIRCM installed. I believe the installation is the pod version attached to the underbelly of the fuselage.
      The VC-25 is rumored to have some parts of the main cabin and the cockpit armored, and it is also rumored they have a system similar like the DIRMC (among other systems) installed on the KC-135. But any defenses on the VC-25 are classified.

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