Boeing KC-46A completes Milestone C

Boeing Flight Test & Evaluation - Boeing Field - KC-46, VH002, EMD 4, Test 003-05, KC-46 fuel offload to C-17, Milestone C

Boeing KC-46A refueling Boeing C-17. Photo via Boeing. Click on image to enlarge.

July 20, 2016, © Leeham Co.: Boeing and the USAF last week announced that the KC-46A tanker successfully completed Milestone C in the refueling flight testing program.

The KC-46A completed refueling of five aircraft, a requirement under Milestone C: the F16, F18, AV8B Harrier, A10 Warthog and the C17. Additionally, the KC-46A itself was refueled from a Boeing KC-10.

The C17 previously proved to be a problem when aerodynamics for the refueling boom revealed more stress than was permissible.

“Testing in flight a few months back with a C-17 revealed load issues with the boom telescope control system,” said Boeing spokesman Charles Ramey. “We discovered that loads placed on the boom by a receiver aircraft after contact were higher than expected. The boom telescope control system actively controls the extension and retraction of the boom length while the receiver aircraft is in contact with the tanker, through various flight conditions and maneuvers. This control system must maintain enough contact pressure to keep the refueling nozzle connected, but not too much pressure as to place excessive force on the tanker or receiver aircraft structure.

KC-46 refuels A-10 during Milestone C test

Boeing KC-46A refueling A10 Warthog. Photo via Boeing. Click on image to enlarge.

“We installed updated hardware — a hydraulic relief valve system similar to systems already employed on the KC-10 and KC-767 tankers. Two bypass valves were inserted into the hydraulic system so that if loads build up on the boom, the valves open to relieve the pressure.”

Helicopter refueling is not part of Milestone C; this comes later.

Ramey told LNC as a result of completing Milestone C, the first two Low Rate Initial Production (LRIP) contracts are expected to be issued next month. LRIP-1 is for seven airplanes. LRIP-2 is for 12.

There are five KC-46As in flight testing now. Units 1, 3 and 5 currently are configured without the refueling boom and drogues. These are testing systems other than refueling. Units 2 and 4 are in full tanker configuration.

With the resolution of the boom issues, there remains certification of the wing-mounted drogues. Ramey said this is taking longer than expected and will result in delayed delivery of fully operational KC-46As until October 2018.

Ramey added, however, that not all of the first 18 tankers (nor the full order of 179 tankers) have to be equipped with the wing-mounted drogues under the original USAF requirement. The drogues as calls WARPS, for Wing Air Refueling Pods.

The five aircraft have accumulated about 900 flight hours of testing.

First delivery of the tankers to the Air Force is scheduled for the third quarter next year.

102 Comments on “Boeing KC-46A completes Milestone C

  1. I’ve read various articles stating that the boom axial load issue was actually first discovered when making contact with the F-16. The deviations were there but smaller, of course. However, it was the C-17 contacts that revealed the design at the time to be insufficient to handle the higher than expected loads. Looks like the problem has been solved. One of many issues discovered and corrected via flight test I’m sure.

    • Funny they knew about those loads and had the same hardware setup on at least the KC10 to deal with it.

      Less found than ignored, poor approach, ego maybe, we don’t need none of them silly pressure relief valves, we can do it with an APP

      • There’s nothing funny about it. Boeing, along with the USAF program managers by the way, thought they could handle the load management with newer technology. It turned out that after some real world data they felt that the new tech wasn’t robust enough for this particular issue. Trying out new tech to solve old problems better happens all the time, apart from ignorance or ego.

        • I will disagree.

          Boeing said this was a slam dunk easy program as they had 50 years of tanker building experience and had 5 labs (test centers) testing things.

          If you are going to change a good operating system, it needs to be for good performance reasons and it should be tested. I see neither one was done in this.

          From the trail of tears its obvious they had the B team on it.

          Should have put the A team on it (grin)

          • You’re assuming, mistakenly, that the axial load issue could be properly measured in the lab. How are you going to measure the aerodynamics of the two large bodies and the boom full scale in the wind tunnel? Sub-scale perhaps but the scaling likely would not be right since the aircraft structure is also involved. So guess what, they did flight testing, and guess what, they discovered an issue. If you’re going to complain about the mismanagement of the program, and it was indeed mismanaged, then complain about something that was actually a management issue, like the wiring or the crappy fuel system components. The boom issue is typical for flight test discovery regardless of the media attention.

          • That’s one take, another is they are hosers (grin)

            Funny everyone else that has done this did it right.

            So what you are arguing is that you are in a country that drives on the right side of the road and out of the blue you come up with the brilliant idea on a two lane road to drive on the left side.

            You don’t seem to be able to apply logic, but most of us can figure out it is not going to work out.

            Jump off a building and die because the law of gravity has not been repealed and are surprised at the result

          • “Funny everyone else that has done this did it right.”

            Really? There is a difference between what gets reported in the press and what really happens during a complex development effort. I know, because I’ve been part of several (non-aerospace, but defense related). Because of the 787 management debacle, the press seems lately to have a real lust for any bad news out of Boeing.

            “So what you are arguing is that you are in a country that drives on the right side of the road and out of the blue you come up with the brilliant idea on a two lane road to drive on the left side.”

            Uh, no this is not at all what I’m arguing. Don’t be ridiculous.

          • I certainly hope you are not implying anyting.

            That can get you suspended.

            Disagree with me as much as you want, but start making it personal and there will be consequences.

          • Well, You’re hallucinating if you truly think this is what I’m arguing:

            “So what you are arguing is that you are in a country that drives on the right side of the road and out of the blue you come up with the brilliant idea on a two lane road to drive on the left side.”

            “You don’t seem to be able to apply logic, but most of us can figure out it is not going to work out.”

            “Jump off a building and die because the law of gravity has not been repealed and are surprised at the result.”

          • “Funny everyone else that has done this did it right.”

            This just isn’t correct. The MRTT lost not one, but two booms during testing. Other air forces took the the MRTT with nonfunctional booms or without a boom at all. The Australians restricted the use of their boom for several years. An Australian Air Force MRTT finally successfully refueled a C-17 about the same time that Boeing announced that their refueling of a C-17 wasn’t successful (IIRC sometime in the first quarter of 2016). Good for the Aussies and Airbus, but this was a plane that was supposed to have that capacity (3-4) years ago.

            The MRTT also didn’t have triple redundancy and would have required an extensive and costly redesign. Airbus leadership acknowledged that losing the KC-X contest was good for Airbus because the contract tied up Boeing on a low margin contract, the USAF validated the merits of the MRTT, and it left Airbus free to pursue new orders.

  2. This 2 engine tanker is eventually going to leave someone waiting for refueling out there to die. If a KC10 or KC135 loses an engine, the refueling mission proceeds. If the KC46 loses an engine, it MUST descend to a much lower altitude to sustain flight and head for land to save himself. Too bad for the single-seat pilot at high altitude that needs fuel

    • If the tanker is able to descend,surely the fighter can as well? Would the tanker be able to refuel the fighter on one engine at low attitude?

      • SS McDonald

        You shift to the next tanker, there are usually multiples.

        Seeing as how the only available more than two engine aircraft are now A340s, 747s and A380s, what’s your answer?

        You can also dump fuel, operate at lower altitudes.

        The other available tanker (A330T in various designations) is also two engine.

        Logically its far past time we got a long endurance attack aircraft made and not using fighters for that role (A10 comes to mind)

  3. I take it that the boom being used in the KC-46 is “new” given that the booms in the KC-135 and KC-767 didn’t have this problem? Similarly, drogues have been around for quite some time, I take it those are new designs in this aircraft too? What were (supposed to be) the touted benefits of these new boom and drogue designs?

    • Rick,

      The KC-46 boom is based on the KC-10 boom but has been updated and improved. The KC-767 boom is based off of the KC-135 boom, neither of which have the flow rate to meet the USAF requirements.

      I’m not sure how new the hose & drogue systems are. The USAF flow rate requirement wasn’t any different than in previous versions.

      • Just to correct the Leeham comment about the drogue system being optional. Thats only for the wing mounted pods, the KC46 has a permanent fuselage trailing drogue as well. Something like 30 pairs of wing mounted pods will be provided for the 179 ship order

        The drogues are a completely new design by Cobham to get around the ‘meatball’s’ reputation for being a plane wrecker.
        The Cobham datasheet shows their improvements to include ‘variable drag’ and includes a lot more digital control as you would expect to optimise for different fast jets and helicopters.

  4. The boom is new, higher fuel rate, idea is the same (big change is the operator no longer is at the back actually seeing what is going on, he does it by TV which I am not sure is a good idea either, eye balls on directly in 3 D is much better me thinks.

    Agreed, basically its the same thing over again. Bad engineering that they figured they could do it all with software. Nothing like a well proven solution per the 767/KC10 (and probably the KC135, 300/310s and 330s)

    They had wing drogue issues on the 767T, repeat.

    While it will eventually work just fine, all these issue are a result of poor program management.

    • There is no repeat of the KC-767 wing drogue issue. Read one of the numerous articles that actually goes into detail on the WARPS for the KC-46A.

      Or how about;
      Start at the bottom of page 10.

      “Obtain FAA approval of key components: FAA and program officials report that while most of the KC-46 components have been deemed ready for certification by the FAA, two key aerial refueling systems have not. In order to obtain airworthiness certification from the FAA, the KC-46 and its components must be designed, built, and then tested through the FAA’s regulatory process. The supplier for the centerline drogue system and wing aerial refueling pods, however, built the systems without following FAA processes. Consequently, the supplier was told by the FAA in late 2014 that the FAA would need to inspect the individual parts to ensure design conformance. During this process, the supplier discovered a design flaw with the aerial refueling pods, which caused further delays.”

      • I will look at that when I get the chance. I think I have plenty of capacity this month.

        So it shifts it into the wiring harness problems, not getting the details right.

  5. They are going to refuel Helicopters with it?

    I know the KC130s do, seems insane to do it with this bird.

    • Probably one of the many USAF requirements that both the A330 MRTT and the KC-767 couldn’t meet. Thus, the USAF was willing to pay the winning manufacturer billions of dollars to get what they wanted. Make no mistake, Airbus would’ve also required billions to provide a product to meet the requirements.

      There are reasons the 767-2C has a -300 wing and a -400 HL system on a -200 fuselage. Refueling very low speed aircraft could be one of them.

      • My understanding is that the MRTT met all required performance requirements; the loss being due to price and ‘excess capabilities’, which is fair enough. Perhaps this requirement was added due to other service requests – I am thinking especially of the Marine heavy helicopter programme.

        • UGH – requirements three times in three lines – alas if there was only an edit function!

          • Partially, right, partially wrong. The A330 did not meet all requirements, and would have required some significant deviation in some requirements to meet the specifications set forth by the RFP. And the USAF failed to follow the rules regarding the evaluation process.

          • There is a difference in paper requirements and proven.

            In this case I sure don’t want to be in the helicopter trying to do 175 knots to keep up with a 767!

            A330 would have to meet the same requirement or get it waivered.

            Not something anyone should spend billions on. Send a Herc or figure out a different way to run the mission.

        • “Excess capabilities”?

          The USAF did need a KC-10 to trail 3 F-35 to the UK. The KC-135 is to small and the KC-46 will be to small for the thirsty F-35.

          • Interesting, the RAAF is keeping quiet on what they can do with the A330-MRTT but they did say they could operate 4 F-18As over Beijing with each one, and more F-18-Es and F35s. Seems a long way in comparison to me.

        • No, the MRTT didn’t even come close to meeting ALL of the performance requirements. One example is the MRTT couldn’t and still can’t handle full height 463L pallets. There is not enough height in the lower deck cargo hold. The sloped cargo deck is also incompatible with existing USAF cargo loading equipment. Another example is that the MRTT doesn’t have the required level of ballistic protection for certain parts of the aircraft.

          • The aircraft offered by Airbus to the KC-X request was not the KC-30A ordered by Australia or any other MRTT operator.

            The main deck cargo capability was in the offer included and not even protested by Boeing. The KC-45 was able to carry twice the pallets than KC-46 and even more than the C-17.

            Non of your claims is supported by the GAO report.

          • MHalblaub is correct.

            The 767 also did not have ballistic protection nor many of the other requirement. All were put on paper, had to be added.

            Slopped cargo is a known issue I have worked with. It was overcome so not sure that is any kind of a showstopper.

          • MHalblaub,

            You would be correct if I was talking about the Airbus offer for the KC-X RFP, but I was referring to the A330 MRTT which is what I thought David Huges was talking about. You are correct in pointing out that the A330 MRTT is different from what Airbus offered for the KC-X, a point that Airbus fans tend to ignore when they talk about how the A330MRTT could refuel the C-17 when the KC-46 was not yet able to. I’m also in agreement that the Airbus offer met the requiremnts, albeit after significant changes from the A330MRTT.

          • Mike.

            Lets quit calling them Airbus fans. The A330MRT and all its variations is a tanker that does its job.

            It had some dram in its own right, but also not the drama that the USAF KC46 has had.

            At the time both the KC45 and 46 were nothing more than paper aircraft (albeit one was flying and working into actually tanking and the other had a civilian hull and a few 767T products)

            What we can say is the A330MRT variants has successfully tanked all the aircraft, KC46 has just now completed that.

            Airbus deserves a lot of credit for having come up with a tanker when they had very little (A300MRT) tanker experience before.

            Boeing should have been able to do theirs without the mistakes they have self inflicted.

            No one will ever know how hard a time Airbus would have had meeting the USAF specs.

          • “Airbus deserves a lot of credit for having come up with a tanker when they had very little (A300MRT) tanker experience before. ”

            Airbus first militarized frame was the A310 MRT, based on used civil A310 and an added freight door , which started out as a range of modular exchangeable mission containers for VIP. , MedEvac, Flying Hospital … transport, Rather versatile.
            Later Tanker capability ( hose and drogue only ) was added . voila : A310MRTT

            The A330 MRTT builds on the experience and adds the from scratch developed refueling boom which was initially trialed on an A310MRTT.

          • TransWorld,

            It seems to me that you are having trouble differentiating between what is expected while a system is still in development and not yet delivered, verses what is expected after a system has been delivered.

          • No, I bring new systems on line all the time.

            I know the process and how it works and how it goes wrong.

            And in all cases management screws it up. Not just a few, but all.

            The wrench turners are the ones that have to try to pick up the pieces and make it work.

          • TransWorld,

            “And in all cases management screws it up. Not just a few, but all.”

            If you really believe this then why do you act so surprised and horrified that the KC-46A management screwed up. This should be old hat then.

            Products are rarely judged by the various problems encountered during their development. If they were then not one product would be deemed successful, because according to you, management screws it up in ALL cases. So, with the KC-46A, I’ll reserve my judgement until Jan 2018 when the first production lot is scheduled to be completely delivered, which, by the way, is only 5 months later than the original schedule. I’ll see what the USAF says then about how the KC-46A performs.

          • “One example is the MRTT couldn’t and still can’t handle full height 463L pallets.”

            Pray tell me, which ( in Air Force use or not ) plane has a lower cargo hold structure gauge in excess of 96 inches ? 🙂

            463 pallets were designed for main deck use.
            ( all the targeted lifters only had one useful deck anyway.)

          • Mike,

            that actually has some merit and I will have to chew on it!

          • Uwe,

            “Pray tell me, which ( in Air Force use or not ) plane has a lower cargo hold structure gauge in excess of 96 inches ?”

            Well, I know that none of the A330 MRTT’s delivered to date have a main deck cargo hold, and the lower deck cargo hold lacks sufficient height to handle 96″ high 463L pallets. This was one of the KC-X requirements, along with compatibility with existing USAF cargo loading equipment (which precludes a sloped non-freighter deck).

            Check out Section J, Attachment 1 of the KC-X RFP titled: “System Requirements Document (SRD) for the KC-X 24 February 2010”

            Specifically, section on page 7 states: “The KC-X shall transport cargo and personnel by using only material handling equipment and transportation support processes and procedures employed by other Air Mobility Command (AMC) assets. (MANDATORY)” This means that the USAF didn’t want to have to use specialized loading equipment that only the KC-45 would need because of it’s sloped cargo deck.

            Section on page 8 states: “The KC-X main cargo door opening height shall accommodate loading of a 463L pallet that includes 96 inches of cargo height in accordance with Air Mobility Command Instruction (AMCI) 24-101 Volume 11. (MANDATORY)” This is pretty self explanatory.

            If you don’t believe me here is a link where you can find Section J, Attachment 1 of the RFP.

            Clearly it was pretty important for the USAF to have a KC-X that could handle any 463L pallet (max weight and height) that other AMC assets could handle with existing AMC cargo equipment and processes. No A330 MRTT built to date can do this, and I’m not exactly sure how Airbus could get away with the sloping deck passenger model as the basis for their KC-45 proposal.

          • See, MRTT stands for Multi Role Transport & Tanker.
            If you order the freight door option and main deck freight floor option you are all set for loading the majority of ULDs .

            My view jibes with reality as this FG article explains:

            IMU most of the available A330 outfitting options are combine able. If a buyer requires fully fledged cargo capability you start out with an A330F and fit the tanker infrastructure.
            Though I don’t think that with integral motorized floor rollers any additional external equipment would be needed.

          • Uwe,
            So are you claiming that Airbus has already certified an A330 MRTT based on the passenger version with a main deck cargo door and floor??? Are you also claiming that Airbus has already certified and A330 MRTT based on the tanker version??? I don’t recall either of these things happening.

          • IMU all the outfitting packages ( freight door, Front gear bubble, WARPS, Boom, … ) already have family scoped certification as STDs . You can have an ARB or WARPS installed on any A330. ( RAAF forex will do this via using second hand Quantas frames ). Not a dumb idea, if you ask me 🙂

            My guess would be that final certification effort is much reduced. ( Still gobs of Fleißarbeit required to produce the paper trail.)

          • Uwe,

            They won’t be able to certify those as of yet un-built derivatives without some sort of flight test. So, there will be real time and money involved.

        • The *proposal* like the boeing *proposal* met the requirements. No existing aircraft however met the requirements. Both the 767 and the 330 would of required significant work to go from their current production versions to the proposed versions: flow rates, EM, wiring separations, etc. Just like production KC-767/A330-MRTT don’t meet the USAF requirements.

  6. “Boeing KC-10”?

    I am well aware that Boeing owns MD but Boeing has nothing todo with the KC-10.

    The Me 262 is not called Airbus today.

    • Not a good example. How many Me 262’s are flying and being supported today (replicas built in the US don’t count)? How many were flying when Airbus was formed? Zero and zero.

      • MHalblaub has it right. You do not buy your history, you earn it.

        Boeing cannot arbitrarily take D or MD history. Its a pernicious move. They also add D and MD figures to their aircraft totals and that is equally wrong.

        They brought the company and going forward they can add profits and losses.

        • I don’t see it as buying history. Tell me, what is the name of the company that has had to support the KC-10 for the USAF over the last 20 plus years?

          • This is primarily about knowledge continuity.

            With hire and fire this is something oftentimes not even available inside a single company.
            Beancounters think in tangible “filet-able” values.
            “knowledge and understanding” is a rather inaccessible value proposition in that scope 🙂

          • Mike:

            Let not jump into hyperobole. Boeing has not HAD to support anyting.

            Good business yes, stupid not to yes, but HAD to, no

            When I got married, does that mean I got to claim I was as good a tractor driver as my wife?

            She had more than her share of amazing accomplishments, I am proud she married me, but I in no way claim what she did was mine.

            What we have done and achieved after we got married are a co shared set of accomplishment we both achieved together, but I am never going to claim what are hers and hers alone.

            Boeing has supported the F-15, big whoop, there are at least 6 firms in the world that can do that.

            When was the last time Boeing itself (post merge or pre) designed a successfully fighter?

          • That would be the derivative EA-18G Growler and to be fair they did quite a good job on it.Before that, er the Peashooter? I believe there is a nice example at the Air Force Museum.

          • Transworld,

            We are talking about companies merging, not marriages or slaves.

          • There is a difference?

            Trump seems to think his wifes accomplishments before he married her reflect wonderfully on him.

            And apparently you have not worked lately, we are becoming more slaved each day.

            And you did not answer when was the last time Boeing came up with a viable fighter.

            D did it, MD did it, Boeing?

            so now they get credit for develop the A1, A4, F16, F15 and F18?

            I don’t think so.

          • TransWorld,

            “And apparently you have not worked lately, we are becoming more slaved each day. ”

            Don’t worry, I’m no leach on the system. I work hard, pay my taxes, and provide for my family. But I can assure you, I’m no slave. I may have a tendency to work 45 or 50 hour weeks, but that’s my choice.

            I think we should talk about aircraft development programs and aircraft company mergers, not Trump, marriages, or slaves.

            As ATS says below, referring to the KC-10 as a Boeing product because in the merger MacDag lost it’s name is pretty standard. If you don’t like it, fine, but you’re not going to convince me that it is bad.

        • Um, it is pretty standard in every field. When you buy a company, everything they did is also part of what you bought. Douglas and Mcdonnell Douglas exist as merely trademarks now, no different than “Heineken”. As the KC-10 is the official name of the plane and the developer of the plane is in fact Boeing, the company supporting the plane is in fact Boeing, the company with the designs is in fact Boeing.

          • Their is a chasm worth of difference in now owning and claiming their history.

            So what you are saying is that a Southern Slave owner who bought a slave also owned all their history and accomplishments from their homeland?

          • Well technically it was a merger so McD is a part of Boeing.
            Not sure about the slaves that came over in the merger…

          • ATS,

            Agreed! Specifically, all the IP that the company owned will now be owned by the buying company.

          • Ownership of IP as such is good for litigation or trading.

            For actual use it is not sufficient.
            You also need the application know how ( quite often never “read” off the workforce and converted to digestable information. Additionally some of the know how is difficult to move into nonhuman storage. i.e. you need workforce continuity and have to avoid of loosing capabilities via disuse.

          • IP is not history.

            IP is not accomplishments.

            IP is you got their stuff and you get to keep it as best you can going forward.

            IP does not mean you automatically get the control to maintain it.

          • TransWorld,

            What a bunch of hogwash! IP is history and is extremely important. It is so because it was produced by people and developed by people and maintained by people. If a company buys IP they control it because they own the rights to it. I’m not talking about Government owned IP here.

          • Airbus buys/merges with a company and claims their history.
            MBDA is formed and claims the history of all the parts of it.
            Google buys a company and claims their history.
            ARM buys a company and claims their history.

            In all these cases the acquired/merged company is *part* of the final company. The history of the acquired/merged company is part of the history of the final company.

            It is pretty much bog standard the world over.

          • Not paying taxes is also bog standard, that does not make it either right.

            IP is the rights to drawings, designs, patents if they apply or still do.

            So by that logic Case New Holland can claim to have made 15 million cars.

          • TransWorld,

            In all of my conversation s with my managers and peers throughout my career in defense work, intellectual property (IP) was always understood to include proprietary information like the drawings and designs you mentioned, publicly disclosed patents, AND company know-how in the minds of the employees. As Uwe stated, this know-how is often hard to record and must be maintained by keeping the people with it stashed in their brains.

            So IP, as I and my colleagues understand it, very much depends on the employees and as such is fully integrated into company history and accomplishments.

  7. I want to clear something up.

    I think the KC46 will be a perfectly fine aircraft for the USAF (and others) once its got its bugs worked out.

    With the USAF mission specific systems, it will far exceed the A330MRT combat missions capability (I am seeing indications Airbus is going to “add” capabilities to the A330MRT which I interpret to try to match the KC46 (or as close as they can)

    I also think its the right sized aircraft for the USAF needs as well as others.

    That said, its a pretty sad commentary on development.

    Problems that should never occur, including putting the wrong chemicals into the fueling system.

    You mean to tell me they don’t know how to run an evidence trail that confirms of what was received, what was in a barrel, where it was transferred and from what?

    Excuse me, before we pump that stuff into my 500 million dollar aircraft, I want to see the chemical analysis of what came out of that barrel with all the correct ID, hand offs attached to it.

    And it damned well better smell like what you say it is!

    That is just plane depressing.

    • “With the USAF mission specific systems, it will far exceed the A330MRT combat missions capability”
      According to my knowledge GAO did only critiqued some minor aircraft issues but not the mission capability itself. The main problem was that USAF valued the KC-45 exceeding most capabilities by far but did not make that clear at the start of the contest.

      “I am seeing indications Airbus is going to “add” capabilities to the A330MRT which I interpret to try to match the KC46 (or as close as they can”
      Airbus only adds capabilities in case a costumer wants them:

      – Australia ordered with no main deck cargo capability and airline seating
      – UK ordered even without a refueling boom but offer airline services to the Falklands.

      Until today no MRTT was ordered with main deck cargo capability. Every costumer rated the lower deck offered sufficient space.

      So what capability does the MRTT lack against the KC-46?

      The KC-30A is operational even with its boom. When will the KC-46 offer this capability to other USAF aircraft?

      In my opinion the KC-46 is just right sized for Boeing but not for USAF with e.g. great distances to cover over the Pacific.

      • MH:

        Huge amounts of system were added, the KC46 has both intelligence gathering capability as well as command and control capability.

        My take is that the A330MRT (even) did not, I believe Australia added some of that and one of the reason it took so long to get it into full service was they were not working when they did (RAAF follows closely US networks and cross links as they fully expect to operate the US in any Pacific Area crisis)

        I am only seeing now the tidbits put out by Airbus they can add that

        Add ons are not nearly as good as if its designed from the frame up.

      • “So what capability does the MRTT lack against the KC-46?”

        Unlike the KC-46A will once it’s delivered, not one MRTT built to date meets all of the KC-X requirements.

        • What good is a glass daggger?

          Nobody beyond the USAF ordered a KC-X “thingy”.
          For what nefarious purpose should Airbus build KC-X conforming tankers for customers that ordered a superior product. 🙂

          Slight detraction:
          ~2..3 decades ago the US started to lambast Japan for access to the local car market because they obviously were actively hindered. Funny thing: no US company ever offered RHD models that would have had even a whiff of a chance of finding buyers in Japan. ( Or Good forbid a “rightsized” model for that maket ( dominated more by KEI size offerings.)

          • The USAF requirements are much more demanding for cargo, survivability, and C3I than the customers that have gone with the A330 MRTT.

          • Sure, and only Boeing with its pedigree of perfectly executed projects could ever provide those capabilities. Dream On 🙂

          • I know, I know, the truth hurts.

            Seriously though, no one commenting here is claiming Airbus doesn’t have the capability to develop a product that meets the USAF specs, they just haven’t. However, the idea that somehow Airbus can make the A330 MRTT meet the USAF specs without spending billions is ludicrous.

          • Afaics nobody here claimed that Airbus can conjure up any kind of plane outfitted to the latest fashion in milspec stuff
            on short notice in reaction to some procurement guys freshly experienced nightmare. 🙂

            In this context the argument that $airframer never built an airframe to a spec that was never ordered as an indication of not being able to fulfill such a spec eventually is rather unfortunate one.

            Apropos: is there any info around on how much Airbus has spent on developing MRT outfitting options, how much was sunk into hose and drogue integration and what financial scope the Airbus Refueling Boom represents.

            “Loosing” a boom isn’t all that uncommon even for well rehearsed operations supported by many decades of experience. ( Mr. “All about Tankers” TopBoom had to concede that a couple of years ago. )

          • Uwe,

            When someone makes a comment like ” the A330 MRTT is refueling the C-17 now but the KC-46A cannot yet” or they compare the operational A330 MRTT with the still under development KC-46A, they are implying that the A330 MRTT would be “ready to go” for the USAF.

      • “When will the KC-46 offer this capability to other USAF aircraft?”

        January 2018, about 1.5 years less late than the KC-30A’s were.

        • We will see it or if it will be another 7-8-7 roll it.

          As a costumer I would be less impressed by “less late” because I get my product later than anyone else.

          • Sometimes customers are willing to wait for more capability.

    • With the USAF mission specific systems, it will far exceed the A330MRT combat missions capability (I am seeing indications Airbus is going to “add” capabilities to the A330MRT which I interpret to try to match the KC46 (or as close as they can)

      A rather narcissistic view.
      The US market is gone for Airbus.
      The majority of other potential buyers take the MRTT.

      I’d view the “add”ing as Airbus established style of product maintainance.
      I’d draw a comparison to the tech level differences between US designed cars and those designed elsewhere.
      Where everybody else drove a modern item the captured US customers was happy with cosmetically pimped 1930 technology home produce. 🙂

      • Uwe: We loved our 30s pimped tech, and one thing I have found, it was reliable and did not cost nearly as much as the danged Passat has to keep it running!
        Not to mention we have the worlds most Iconic cars and the rest of the world has a bunch of ho hum they all look alike and are too danged small (Passat aside of course, front seating is good)

        So far Airbus has far more customers, but we have the NUMBERS!

        Reality is that two US tanker Squadrons exceed the entire tanker capability of the entire world (maybe 3)

        Having seen Saudi Arabia in action, do you really think they could operate a sophisticated air operation vs indiscriminate bombing?
        So some of those are trophy tankers (like Trumps wife)

        There are a few serious tanker owners, UK (though they are self inflicted limited refueling capability, France, Germany has some old A300s I think.) Australia’s is probably the best one of them.

        • Spain wants to swap some A400M for MRTT.

          OK, now the complete list:

          Australia: 5 and 4 more on order
          France: 12 on order
          Saudi Arabia: 5 and 1 on order
          Singapore: 6 on order
          South Korea: 4 on order
          UAE: 3
          RAF: 14
          34 MRTT already in the air and 11 more to come.

          Likely orders:
          Belgium: 3
          India: 6
          Qatar: 2
          Spain: 2 or 4 (replacement for 4 707 tankers)
          OCCAR: 7+
          (Netherlands, Poland, Norway and Germany)
          14 very likely and 6 for India.

          Today Boeing has contracts for 4 development aircraft and LRIP for 19 aircraft. Eleven aircraft less than MRTT already flying.

          Sooner or later there will be the KC-10 replacement. KC-46MAX? Want make the MTOW much higher and will not empty the lower cargo bay. KC-777-300ER? The 777-300ER is more expensive than the A350-900 and the MTOW of the A330 is now at 242 t from the original KC-30A of 233 t.

          With the fuel guzzler F-35 the USAF and Navy will need bigger tankers. Also due to the F-35 the US can afford less fighter aircraft in the future.

          • The F-35 has a superior combat radius than the Falcon, Hornet and Super Hornet and somehow planes are not dropping from the sky.

          • Not strictly correct geo
            . Combat radius: 740 nm (with 2,000 Ib bomb*2 + AIM-9L*2 + 1,040 Gal external fuel) –> The total fuel of F-16C in this condition is 3,160 + 1,040*3.785*0.8 = 6,309 kg.
            Combat radius: 600~700 nm (with 2,000 Ib bomb*2 + AIM-120*2l)
            –> The total fuel of F-35A in this condition is 8,390 kg.

            The F35 fuel load is larger as its a much bigger plane with a massive engine, and even that combat radius is down at the 600nm end these days.

            Ferry range of the F35 is well down on the Superhornet (3330km), its normally done with external fuel tanks, but even at this stage the F35 hasnt been tested with external tanks !, so we dont have a figure thats compatible.

          • MH:

            Your numbers are good, Boeing will match that in two years or less production. Not to mention existing.

            Europe is the one that is going to need a whole lot more tankers by your logic, they are almost 100% into the F-35 (short range Rafale aside)

            US, we have 450 tankers (well more with the KC10 and KC130s. Which France is buying more of, seems that pesky A400 can’t quite do what it was supposed to.

            Work up the math as to how many F-35 a KC46 can fuel.

            With fewer fighters, we need fewer tankers.

            Also note the US Navy has alternative tankers and does not deepening on USAF unless its a joint ops and they are there anyway.

          • Dear Transword,

            the USAF will buy 15 KC-46 a year.
            EMD was 4 aircraft
            LOT1 will 7
            LOT2 will be 12
            LOT3 and following 15…
            but USAF will get in this amount:
            6 in the first year, 11 second, 19, 17, 15, 15, …
            Sum: 6, 17, 36, 53, 68

            From the fixed orders Airbus has 45 tankers + 14 expected. Boeing may catch up in 2022 in case delivery starts next year.

            Here the trail of the F-35s:
            Even the KC-10 had to be refueled.

            30,000 lb F-35 spare parts and 5,000 lb F-35 maintaining personal.
            Here is a nice chart about fuel of load capability. Due to it was a one way mission the range-axis can be doubled.
            May be 4,000 nm to go and 2.5 full reloads for 3 F-35s @ 18.000 lbs or 135,000 lb of fuel required.
            In sum 170.000 lb payload. That is close to the 4,000 nm (2,000 range) capability for a KC-10.

            I would assume the KC-10 is not used at MTOW any longer and the F-35 did not take of at MTOW.

            Trailing range for A330 MRTT with 4 Eurofighter and no cargo is 3,600 nm. One Eurofighter burns about 27,000 lb for 2,000 nm. So with just 3 Eurofighter and additional 35,000 lb the MRTT could have done the job.

            Look at the KC-135 also mentioned in the chart.

          • Missing charts and do they reflect the cargo and pax the KC-10 was carrying?

            Its been argued the A330MRT has a big advantage there, but the way the USAF operates, it has assets in theatre and most hardware goes by sea not air.

            And if they aren’t using the main deck for freight you have to wonder just what that gets you?

            Something like 75% of the missions can’t take advantage of the cargo pax capability.

            To have a larger aircraft for a 25% mission use is not justified by the USAF.

            Other countries yes, they don’t have the global system and reach the US armed forces do. .

          • “Other countries yes, they don’t have the global system and reach the US armed forces do. .”

            Even with being busy with Power Projection all day long the US can’t accumulate acceptable hours on their frames to wear them down before they turn into tech overtaken museum exhibits difficult and expensive to keep flying.

          • Well yea.

            On the other hand an A330MRT in Britain picking up cargo can’t tank around Syria can it?

            And to make it worse (if possible), some can’t tank at all.

          • “On the other hand an A330MRT in Britain picking up cargo can’t tank around Syria can it?”

            Most countries think that peace is the preferred state of affairs. ( Select ones have a problem grasping that. )
            What I want to say here: war gear is procured for contingency. Using it for a secondary purpose has a range of advantages.

            “And to make it worse (if possible), some can’t tank at all.”

            single track mind.
            Others have more nonflying tankers than flying ones.
            And the “nonflying” are so nonflying that they have to buy new ones ( a tortured convoluted process me seemeth 🙂

  8. This is from the A400 program speed needed for a helicopter refueling.

    Can a 767 even fly that slow empty? I know this is the KC46, but I don’t think it changed the wing design!

    108-130kt (200-240km/h) or for those of us who have not flown in a long time or are metric 124 – 155 mph

    V-22 considered a helicopter?

    • V-22 considered a helicopter?

      No. IMU comfortable cruise speed is the deciding factor.
      225knots ( stall in airplane mode is below 110knots and top speed in helo mode should be rather limited. )

      CH-53 family : 150knots to 170knots

      • You still need a reserve to allow catch up as well as to stay connected.

        155 would likely be maximum and still be able to do that.

        I don’t see a KC46 flying that slow. Seems like a bogus requirement (or plane nuts)

        Turbo props can easily per KC130 and the attempt at the A400 (which I suspect they will resolve)

        The slower the better for the helicopter.

  9. Thanks to all those who commented – I am at last comprehending what happened and is happening in this long story.

    But one question: Today it was reported that the US Air Force was offering incentives to candidates for the new trainer that offered performance in excess of what was requested. In view of what I understand happened with the tanker competition, is this legal?

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