HOTR: USAF prepares for new tanker competition, pitting Lockheed Martin/Airbus and Boeing against each other

By the Leeham News Team

June 22, 2021, © Leeham News: The US Air Force appears to be preparing a new round of competition for the next phase of its aerial refueling tanker recapitalization.

The first, KC-X, took more than 10 years to award a contract that didn’t get overturned. Boeing initially was awarded a lease deal in 2001 that was canceled in the wake of a scandal that sent two Boeing officers to jail and led to the resignation of CEO Phil Condit.

Round two pitted Boeing against Northrop Grumman and EADS, which was the name of the parent of Airbus’ commercial unit. Northrop won, but this award was overturned when USAF improprieties were revealed in the debriefing.

Round three pitted Boeing against EADS alone after Northrop bowed out. Boeing won this contract with a price 10% below EADS, which didn’t contest the decision. Boeing since has written off about $5bn on the KC-46A tanker, which still doesn’t work as required and which was delivered nearly two years late.

Related stories:

KC-Y and KC-Z

The Air Force’s long-term plans included a KC-Y and KC-Z set of procurements. KC-Y supplements the KC-X program, which is for 179 KC-46As. The USAF plans to buy 140-160 KC-Ys to finish replacing the KC-135s and probably the KC-10s.

This time, Lockheed Martin will be the prime contractor with Airbus as a partner. Lockheed and Airbus announced their partnership in 2018.

It will be interesting to see how Boeing engages in its messaging in a new competition. In Rounds Two and Three KC-X competitions, it became clear very early that Boeing’s communication team was out for blood. They attacked Airbus for its illegal subsidies, for its inexperience in building tankers, for illegal subsidies, inexperience in building refueling booms, for illegal subsidies, for being French, for illegal subsidies, for tying up with Northrop, which also didn’t know anything about building tankers, for illegal subsidies, for proposing a “greenfield” assembly site in Mobile, for illegal subsidies, for the Mobile workforce being incapable of building tricycles at Christmas and for illegal subsidies.

But the competitive environment is very different today. Boeing’s tanker problems, cost overruns, and delays will be fodder for Lockheed Martin. (Airbus will no doubt take a backseat, as it did when Northrop Grumman was the prime contractor in KC-X Round Two.)

Airbus’s KC-330 MRTT has been in service for years with few problems. Whether Airbus promises to open a KC-330 assembly line in Mobile (AL), as it did in Rounds Two and Three, is a question. A330 production is now down to 2/mo. The Toulouse line has a capacity for 10/mo. With a weak skyline and slow widebody production recovery anticipated from COVID, the A330’s future draws questions. Airbus says it will keep the line open. Perhaps anticipating the KC-Y competition is why.

WTO case is suspended

And the US and Europe just put a five-year standstill on the 17-year old trade dispute which was an overhang in Rounds Two and Three in the KC-X competitions.

Boeing will be on the defensive, given its performance with the KC-46A program. Suspension of the WTO case doesn’t mean Boeing won’t still whine about the “illegal” subsidies, even though the WTO found launch aid, in principle, legal. It was the terms and conditions of below-market interest rates that got Airbus in trouble. In any event, Airbus repaid the launch aid connected with the A330s through royalties.

Still, whenever the USAF issues its request for proposals, expect another unseemly bloodbath.

Turboprops in COVID

Nearly all the press about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on airliners has been about jets. But turboprops also have been hit hard.

The UK consultancy, Ishka, routinely published values and lease rates for the ATR-72-600 and De Havilland Dash 8-400 (Q400). The number of stored ATRs and Dash 8-400s ballooned throughout COVID, as regional airlines collapsed and/or services were cut back.

Nordic Aviation Capital, the world’s largest turboprop and regional jet lessor, was forced into bankruptcy as its customers ceased operations, sought payment deferrals, or returned aircraft.

Lease rates and current market values plunged. Lessor C&L Aviation Group is offering 12 Saab 340Bs for sale at $985,000—down about half from CMVs only a few months ago. Lease rates, according to the appraisal company Vref, dropped below $30,000 per month. Vref and other market sources list lease rates for the older Dash 8 100/200/300 as low as $25k/mo for the -100 to the low $40k/mo for the -300. Ishka and market sources say the lease rates for the Dash 8-400 is as low as $50k/mo.

Regional airlines struggled before COVID as business models shifted and major airline partners squeezed them with the capacity contracts. Several regional jet operators collapsed. So have some regional turboprop operators.

Recovery from the pandemic seems to be roaring back for mainline jet operators in many regions of the world. Recovery for regional airlines may not be as rapid.



224 Comments on “HOTR: USAF prepares for new tanker competition, pitting Lockheed Martin/Airbus and Boeing against each other

  1. Which platform is proposed by Lockheed Martin/Airbus this time?

    • The same good old A330 (CEO), just like the other MRTTs in operation

      • The numbers X/Y do not add up to replace the current KC-135R (the non updated KC-135 are in storage)

        If I have number right, that is 500 KC-135R and add in another 60 KC-10 (various allied nation have usually had some KC-135 and I don’t know what A330MRT numbers add up to in that regard – not all would be available to the US)

        As a lot of this has to do with location (they need to be where you need the fuel) they are stationed or staged/deployed all around the world.

        A larger tanker can make up some numbers but numbers count a big factor as extending out a fueling time means other aircraft that have been fueled are burning fuel waiting for the last one to get loaded.

        • Nothing odd about it.

          The A220 was a move to deal with the now failed so called dumping action and an opportunity to extend a program to Alabama where the A320/321 is being produced.

          The A330 would only be produced in the US with a tanker contact. Now with such low production numbers it would remove the A330 entirely from Airbus Europe and the political issue that entails.

          • As a contrast, there are around 46 A330MRT in service, same number of KC-46 (yes its limited service).

            Of those 14 are British that are not fully capable (no boom).

            Total of 60 on the A330MRT on order.

            The A330 makes sense for those countries that have limited numbers and need maximum flexibility (hauling freight and or crews to various deployment for train per the RAAF)

            Having seen the RAAF A330MRT in AK for exercises , it sat on the ramp 95% of the time it was here as did RAF and USAF KC-135s.

            Tankers are truly an interesting subset of use.

          • “14 are British that are not fully capable (no boom).”

            They use drogue for almost all of their planes refueling ,but bringing in one or two now with receiver openings, even the new F-35B are probe fitted like the USN uses

          • The F-35B is a US Marine aircraft (originally), that worked out.

            Doesn’t matter, if you are going to help your allies you should have a boom. Everyone else did.

            Its a weird setup that seems to be more comfort than a full on get the most out of what you put into it. Mostly it sold a few more RR engines.

    • It depends on the requirements, are there full wartime USAF spec’s for systems separation and battle hardness and reduncancy the A330MRTT needs some more work, is it $/USG transferred in “non combant zones” the A330 MRTT will be hard to beat.
      Most likely a mix of requirements and US made parts for systems like boom cameras, software and automation. Lookheed might get some milions to develop it for the A330 but Boeing has the inner track and it is a bit of which old Engine should we sponsor this time. The PW4062 or CF6-80C2 for Boeing or PW4172 or CF6-80E1 for the A330MRTT (RR T700 has not much chance even if it is the most sold version..). Following Pentagon logic it is the Engine maker that looses the B-52 re-engine that will get it (then it comes to certify the whole B-52neo to 2025 USAF regulations…)

      • “… US made parts for systems like boom cameras, …”

        Sure, the two things Boeing has substantial issues with.

        • Boeing uses other contractors for ‘their’ refuelling systems and vision-camera setup

          • Sure.
            .. and it gets a complete redo due to not working 🙂

          • Not surprisingly another shortcut from the Muilenberg malaise era and the time before when he was head of military division

      • Recall that the KC-330 for the USAF had GE CF6 engines.

        • As well as C-5M. You can see its peace time when new military aircraft get almost “out of production” commerical engines.

          • cost/benefit/risk – GE was willing to give a good price on the CF6 to keep the fully paid for production line going and increase the pool of engines to need parts/maintenance in the future. also, the CF6 is a very well understood engine at this point, no maintenance or operational surprises are hiding in the closet, you can get parts and maintenance at any major airport.

            also, there were no “new” engines in the same thrust/weight window (closest was the 747-8 version of the GenX but it was too big and heavy)

          • Several aspects that lie in the background.

            Our best example is the Australian Air Force and the 5 years it took to get their A330MRT up to operational standards (RAAF standards not US spec for the KC program which are not the same)

            The A330MRT went through it teething issues (the KC-46 should have avoided most of its)

            Behind the KC specs was also the command and control capability that is not talked about as well as its self defense suite.

            I have seen writing that indicates Airbus has added some or possibly all those features as time went by.

            Boeing has opened the door for competition with its mishandle when there should have been none. Airbus has its boom working correctly.

            Logistically (maint, repair) it far more cost efficient to have an all the same fleet type.

            The USAF has separate freighter setup so the freight ability of the A330MRT was not considered an adder (in contract terms you get credit if you can offer something the other guy can’t)

            That is where the USAF messed up big time, they gave credit for freighter and fuel when the contract language did not do so (which voided the contract on appeal)

            So a big part has to do with how the RFP is written (you can make freight an adder in a new RFP)

            A counter to that is a lower price that offsets an adder (or more than one adder).

            Repeat of the previous RFP that was neutral on those issues (not a plug or a minus) and the KC-46 would have the advantage again (assume the existing issues are resolved)

            Another area is fuel burn and a larger aircraft like the A330MRT is going to burn more fuel. That gets into life cycle costs which are part of the contract.

            And the A330MRT being larger had a bigger footprint and in the case of the last bid, the ramp spacing was wavered by the USAF.

            That also was not allowed as there was no language to that affect it could be wavered.

            The ramp spacing specifications for the USAF are there for a reason as its been deemed needed in case an aircraft explodes (several occurrences) as well as possible actually hit by a munition and keep the spread to one aircraft.

            Complex stuff, including Airbus keeping the A330CEO line going just for A330MRT.

          • “As well as C-5M. You can see its peace time when new military aircraft get almost “out of production” commerical engines.”


            Its actually a very good choice. The KC-135R has those engines as do thousands upon thousands of 737 and A320

            Its going to be in service and supported for an extremely long time

            Its an extremely reliable (C5 had huge issues with reliability) as well as very good SFC.

            If you waited for the LEAP of GTF we would still be in teething issues and the CFM has none.

            A nice case where standard Civilian engine works extremely well.

          • they are going with 8 engines on the B-52 because going to 4 would require major changes to the rudder to strengthen it and add authority for engine out situations in addition to all new pylons.

            by going with 8 engines of about the same thrust as the current engines they will get about a 50% bump in fuel economy (and hence range which was already ridiculous) and on wing time that is effectively the life of the aircraft.

            B-52 is an amazingly versatile bomb truck.

          • @TW
            KC135R has CFM56-2 engines, same generation as the 737-300/400/500, orders of magnitude better than the J57s they replaced.

            C5M has CF6 (80C2s?) which replaced the TF39s (which were the predecessor to the first generation of CF6 engines). the -80C2s increased thrust by 22% vs the TF39s and a significant improvements in fuel economy and reliability

          • bilbo:

            I stand corrected, not sure where I got that CFM for the C5 M from, failed to check. My mistake for sure.

      • It heartening to know that when the Vympel NPO missile or S-400 (a missile designed to direct hit and ICBM) hits the hardened systems separated KC767 it stands a much better chance of survival.

        • The spec was written so shrapnel or bullets hitting the fuselage/wing should not cripple whole systems with loss of aircraft like the Buk missile fragments hitting Malaysian Airlines 777 over Ukraine. Having self defence missiles/decoys or jamming helps. So there should be MIL specs for all available systems and those ordering an aircraft has to tick the boxes for what systems should be included this time around. I prefer that commerical airlines and military aircraft should look much different on military radars.

          • Wow, 8 Turbofan engines on the B-52? The mounting of them all spaced out across that wing. Kind of Spruce-Goose like. That would be something to see… On another note, I thought missile technology would have put the old Bird to bed.

          • The SA-11 BUK explosion was not direct impact but nevertheless separated the cockpit and businesses class section from the rest of MH17. Modern missiles are so accurate and powerful it seems pointless to treat them as if they needed to take splinters from the 8.8cm FLAK 37.

          • Sam1:

            The engines will be housed in the same pods or an adapted pod as existing (side by side)

            Attachment point stays the same so no need for wing mods.

            New engines of the thrust to supply the B-52 are smaller though the bigger ones are larger.

            Kind of a trade off. Look up the PW800. It slots in nicely. RR and GE also have engines that work but none are as good as the PW in my opinion.

            B-52 has standoff missiles, dropping bombs on terrorists is not a combat zone per missiles and they have a lot of jamming capability on board.

          • The PW800 doesn’t have the provenance of RR who have been building BJ engines in this class for ever. PW first customer in 2015. GEs types are more regional jets class with the largest really a shrunk CFM56 rather than a development of the older CF34. More likely to go-to builders who turn it is rather than exclusively on merits

          • Oh, Ok. I thought they would be attached in new cowling like when the DC-8 were replacing the original Pratts with the GEs.

  2. IMJ, the KC-Y contract is LM’s to lose.

    Contrary to what some analysts have been telling us since the KC-X contract award to Boeing in 2011, it will not be sole-sourced to Boeing without a competition.

    I’d expect LM/Airbus to offer A330-800 MRTTs and with Airbus moving A330 manufacturing lock, stock and barrel to the United States.

    That’s not ideal for the company, but Boeing always expected to take a hit in the short term to tap into the long-term fighter market, said Richard Aboulafia of the Teal Group.

    “It isn’t that bad in the broader scheme of things. Everyone knows it was an aggressive bid to keep Airbus out of the market, and they’ll make it good in the long run,” he said. “They’ll get to build all the tankers, keep the franchise, do the support and keep the enemy out of your market. That’s worth a billion dollars”.

    But after lengthy development delays that resulted in the tankers arriving nearly two years late, lingering issues with aircraft’s refueling boom and remote vision system, left-behind debris on aircraft from the production process and, most recently, problems with locking mechanisms on the fuselage floor, might an exasperated Air Force look once again at Airbus and its A330 MRTT tanker?

    Aboulafia doesn’t think so, at least for the orders already expected, and it’s for the simple reason of availability.

    “If a fleet of MRTTs were available for lease, they would have a good shot,” he says.

    But there isn’t such an available fleet out there and, Aboulafia says, the capital required to compile one makes it a remote possibility.

    “I don’t know anybody that has that kind of appetite for risk,” he says.

    • Haven’t LM had an issue or two w/ the F-35 that might make one less than confident about
      that company’s ability to deliver a useable plane in a timely manner?

      OTOH, maybe AB partnering with them was a way of getting some political pull, to get the A330MRTT over the top.. as should have happened in the first go-round, I think.

      • Well, it’s not as if LM will have to develop their offering from scratch. They will be using an already operational MRTT system from Airbus. LM will essentially only be putting some additional Mil-Spec hardware on it.

        As for the F-35; the whole idea with the JSF concept (i.e. the horrendous looking X-32 and the F-22 similar looking X-35 ) did not originate with LM but rather with the USAF. Combining a conventional takeoff and landing variant, a short takeoff/​vertical landing variant (STOVL) and a carrier variant — in one airframe — was nothing but an utterly stupid idea. That doesn’t mean that LM is absolved from any blame, but the main responsibility for the sad saga of the F-35 lies with the DoD.

        • Yes a vertically starting F-111.. Still with a new even more powerful engine and bigger wings for more fuel the F-35A MkII will become more than a small stealthy bomb truck and JSTARS battlefield integrator that needs a pair of F-15s to keep the bad boys away on its way home…

          • The cleaver thrust vectoring duct used on the F-35 actually began on the German VJ101E (not the YAK 38) in the 1960s. The VJ101E was effectively a swing wing VTOL F-111. Would have worked though had too many parts.

          • The F-35 has multiple program failures

            The Concurrent production was one major key to the F-35 program failure.

            Build a few, find out you are wrong, modify the next ones, find out its still not right, modify, find out you can’t back fit the original ones because you are 4-5 major mods in.

            Lockheed failure on software is huge. Lack of spare parts is huge.

            The F-111 debacle all over again except on steroids. You make it do one thing very good, then adjust to other roles. The F-111 was never a fighter and never could be.

            VTOL ala USMC on the F-35 was nuts (it should have used the same systems and had two total different air frames)

            And selling a stealth aircraft as close air support, just insane.

          • William, the German VJ-101 was a bit different to what you suggest, and was proposed as a F-104 Starfighter replacement, way way smaller than F-111 type large bomber.
            The forward lift engines were proposed in many planes but the F-35 has a single engine with a shaft driven forward fan, which was unique.
            The multiple concept of 3 closely related types on airframe and engine was a success to build and put into service , its the software and mission system that are the nightmare with bad bad management from Lockheed not helping.

          • @Dukeofurl, you are thinking of the VJ101C which indeed was a Starfighter sized test bed that has the distinction of being the first supersonic VTOL to actually break the sound barrier. I however referred to the VJ101E which used the MAN RB-153-61 with the said nozzle latter used on the F-35.

            See page 17 (in German but the picture is all you need to see)

            The VJ101E did not have swing wings but the next proposed variant was essentially a VJ101E with swing wings that was Germany’s proposal to what became the Panavia Tornado. The VTOL was dropped of course.

          • Duke:

            No the air frame is not a success. Its severely compromised to fit that lift fan. You don’t focus on the worst setup for a modern jet fighter (or as in this case you loose what should have been good performance and range improvement)

            There is no super cruise and super sonic and VTOL do not mix (the Harrier was not super sonic)

            The answer if the Marine Corp could justify it would have been a separate VTOL air frame. The F-111 went onto be a steller bomber but it never was a fighter. You can’t have it all.

            There have been major changes and issues with the F-35 air frame as well.

          • So much wrong on the F35 Transworld. The whole program is supersonic , it was demonstrated in prototypes as it was a requirement. No supercruise was needed as it’s a strike fighter with major air to ground missions , that’s not a compromise to meet your requirements with the airframe. It’s a big plane, bigger than many others like the European twin engine fighters. The large cross section behind cockpit is common to many planes , F14 and F22 amoung them. If anything it’s the wing span that’s undersized but better with the naval version, a F35A version with the extended wings from the C would be ideal and suit countries who prefer a longer range : UK and Australia amount them but it’s not to be.

          • @TransWorld. I thought of the F-111 as a masterpiece. The RAAF operated 25 for over two decades and they shut up the various tin pot dictators of SE Asia from verbally threatening Australia because the F-111 could destroy any bridge or airfield in SE Asia with impunity and unrefuelled. It made a fine strike aircraft and would have made a fine interceptor and long range escort using the AIM54 Phoenix missile with AWG-9 radar. The delays seem to have originated from the sophisticated but elegant and efficient variable geometry air intakes that saved much weight and drag by being so short. One reason the F-14 was a success was that the AWG-9/AIM54 had already been developed for the F-111.

            In the end the effort was worth it.

            One reason Australia has the A330 based KC30 MRTT is that the F-18A, F-18E/F and F-35 are so short ranged. The USA would not sell the F-22 that Australia, that was the aircraft best suited due for Australia’s need due to its outstanding range and the large size of Australia.

            @DukeFurl. The ‘cheap’ F-35 is shorter ranged than the long ranged Su 27 series. Specifically the Su-34, Platypus Su 35 has an unrefuelled range of 4000km/2400 miles and apart from ground attack and anti shipping has the Vympell R-77 AMRAAM equivalent and now a ultra long range hypersonic R-34M missile (300km range).

            The only version of the F-35 worth building was the VSTOL version because of it actually adds a unique carrier capability. Building a refined second generation F-22 was more sensible due to the fact that its range meant any tanker could be operated at safe distances.

      • Lockheed partnering with Airbus would be an extremely competitive offering. Low risk, excellent design maturity, established logistics / spares lines, predictable price, predictable in service date, highly capable, very flexible, excellent interoperability.

        It would be a brave procurement officer who’d go for a cheaper bid from someone else. I know that the USAF got Boeing onto a good contract for the KC46 (so far as USAF funds are concerned), but late is, well, late and is by definition costly even if money doesn’t change hands. If another USAF tanker contract is also late and plagued by problems, the USAF could be in a bit of a fix.

        The way things are going, one can see Lockheed and Airbus teaming up in other ways. New strategic air-lifter? Eventual B52 replacement? Well, Airbus are used to “big”.

    • My leaning is to agree with Aboulafia.

      But the RFP language is key as it was last time and its virtually impossible to make a neutral RFP when you have two quite different air frames.

    • I just read an Leeham article that there are a lot of metal wide bodies out there? That presumably includes the A330-200 that is the basis of the MRTT. An A330-800 “neo” which shares the short A330-200 fuselage would be ideal for a new MRTT. The aircraft has a very long range and an excellent takeoff run.

      However as the Trent is the basis of the A330-800 Airbus might need to put GEN-X on it to meet American build requirements.

      The A330-MRTT seems to most convenient choice.

  3. After what they experienced in the political circus a decade ago, I doubt Airbus will try very hard, if at all..

    Just the MRTT option catalogue & a reasonable price.

    They could offer the GENX but only if GE is picking up most of the bill.

    • Agreed on standard A330MRT with whatever adders would be needed to meet the USAF spec.

      But they sure are not going to do new engines, no return and the RFP is certainly not going to be an adder for that.

  4. Wow, the KC-X, is a disaster! It would be a joke to order it again! But that’s what will happen. The only good news is the world has tons of cheap used 767s waiting for a new home.

      • That was as ugly a PR spin by Leahy as anyone ever committed. It was his all time low and I totally lost respect for him.

        A320 and A321 has the same wing and the same standard to stretch or shrink fuselages has gone on forever.

        None of the KC-46 issue has to do with the air frame does it?

        That one need to be put into the latrine and burried once and for all.

        • @TW: Actually, the “Frankentanker” name originated with the cartoonist of the Mobile newspaper.

          • Scott:

            I stand corrected, thank you.

            I seem to remember Leahy picked up on it but would also stand corrected if that is just my anti Leahy kicking in.

          • @TW Oh, there’s no question Leahy and Airbus picked up on it. The cartoon and Franken-name were brilliant slams by the Mobile cartoonist.

            Leahy was never one to let a good quip go to waste. Like Mad Max for the 737 MAX 10.

          • Scott:

            I dislike poor technical takes let alone one that bad.

            I did not buy into the boom falling off the A330MRT as anything other than some fastening and link up issues. It had nothing to do with the capability of the A330 to work as a tanker.

            At this point you certainly could make a great case for the Lemon label.

            While I believe they will correct it all and it will have a long and good service, Boeing almost had to be trying to fail so badly in so many areas.

            I am truly embarrassed at what they have done, even if they aren’t.

      • I sneer at Airbus’ ‘Franken…’ smear attempt.

        Plenty of mixing in Airbus product lines, and Boeing’s.

        But I have seen the Argus sub patrol airplane used for a long time in Canada. 😉

        Nothing wrong with optimizing by using what you have, integration is essential of course.

        But mixing Britannia/CL-44 wing, landing gear, and tail with a DC-4 or 6 fuselage and piston engines was extreme. (The Wright TC engines to get endurance.)

      • A scam by Airbus, who mix and match too.

        Nothing wrong with mix and match to suit specific needs, though the Canadian Argus was too much.

  5. I suspect that Airbus is participating in this circus for the sole purpose of putting downward price pressure on Boeing’s offering; after all, Boeing has a history of undercutting on price in order to win the contract, en then poormouthing at a later juncture about cost overruns.

  6. Marginally related to the current topic:
    METRO: “Boeing lobbyist Keating, who helped steer it through MAX crisis, exits abruptly”

    “The news was first reported by Defense One.

    Neither Calhoun nor Boeing’s media statement offered Keating thanks or acknowledged his contributions to the company, which included running its extensive philanthropic activities – unusual omissions that raised questions about the circumstances of his departure.

    Boeing also removed Keating’s profile from its website.

    A Boeing spokesperson declined to comment beyond its media statement.

    Keating is a forceful Washington insider whose deep knowledge of congressional process and politics helped him push through numerous campaigns since joining Boeing in 2008.

    For years, he fought to keep selling the Navy more F/A-18 Super Hornets, even as the Navy, Marines and Air Force increased their orders of a new fighter jet built by U.S. defense contractor Lockheed Martin Corp.

    He lobbied to convince U.S. lawmakers to overturn the Air Force’s award of a major contract to Boeing rival Airbus to build refueling tankers and redo the competition.”

    • I’m date stamping myself here but I remember numerous USAF attempts at developing a replacement for the KC-135. One famous now deceased senator (like several others) big noted himself as a supposed waste and cost cutter or anti corruption campaigner. In reality depot times and costs for the KC-135 doubled, trebled and finally quadrupled. No doubt there were lobbyists involved i the background as well.

  7. I wonder what kind of competition this will be. If Boeing wins, this would mean the USAF is leasing/buying some KC-46As till KC-46As can be delivered because KC-46As could not be delivered. This does not sound very logic.

    In some news articles the KC-Y tender is described as a bridge-solution or something provisional. I am not sure if that is good for Airbus or bad. Could be good, as then the USAF would accept just a functioning system that can be delivered soon and they would ok with a production facility outside the USA. Could be bad if the contract is somehow for a 10-year-period after which Airbus has to take them back and try to re-sell them (which would in turn dry out the market for all nations that hope to get them for a dime in 10 years).

    • > If Boeing wins, this would mean the USAF is leasing/buying some KC-46As till KC-46As can be delivered because KC-46As could not be delivered. <

      I hear you.


  8. Maybe the USAF should start to look at 21st century airframes/engines rather than ones that will have been around for 40-50 years by the time this next batch come into service.

    787, A350 and 777X could all make interesting platforms depending on size requirement and a contract would be a great launching pad to creating a freighter version of the chosen frame.

    I suppose while the USAF would like the greater range/loiter time they probably figure that for the number of flight hours per year it is not worth paying for the more complex/technologically advanced engines.

    • I would think they shouldn’t be too adventurous given the time pressure. The A330 MRTT is essentially NATO compatible. A copy of the RAAF A330 MRTT would be ideal. It can in flight refuel RAAF F-35 and C-17 with boom and the F-18E/F with drogues. There are plenty of A33o operators and maintenance facilities in the USA, the GE CF-6 engines are American made. I don’t know if A330 MRTT must be new build or if they can be conversions. Some US airlines, in fact many airlines, might be delighted to sell old A330-200 suitable for conversion in Mobil. I would think it would be sensible to let Airbus build the first few in Europe until production sets up in Mobile so that the USAF can train and practice first.

      • Second hand a330-200s can be converted to MRTTs. RAAF converted two former Qantas airliners to MRTTs (A39-006, A39-007)

        • That is correct.

          What the USAF requires though tends to new build even if modified off the 767 line (P-8)

          I don’t know the RAAF version has the features the KC-46 spec has.

          This is 5 years off and if Boeing solves the vision issue then the rest of the history is muted.

          Keep in mind, the USAF does not operate off civilian parts systems, its operates off its own (traced, certified to their specs etc).

          The KC-46 also has a full modern 787 type cockpit as well as the ability to add on future systems. While the A330MRT is modern its not as up to date as the 787.

          I don’t diss the A330MRT, Airbus did a terrific job with no real refueling background. It has some early issues with the boom that they dealt with.

          But as far as I know no A330MRT has been build to the USAF spec that the KC-46 was.

          • Essentaily yes.

            It has two serious issues remaining.

            One was the boom spec for ability to track a vertical movement, that was a USAF spec and they are paying to correct it.

            The other is the vision issue and as its being totally redone, that clearly is a complete embarrassment let alone Airbus has it right (A330MRT is cleared for all fueling ops with all aircraft as far as I know)

            The C-17 went through some serious teething issues (granted it was a whole new aircraft) and now is highly regarded.

            I hope the KC-46 gets there.

          • Probably close to (or almost there, after a couple more years and billions more cost overrun) U.S. spec that @TW reminded us repeatedly here.

          • Airbus had already build the first two KC45 of the first 4 frames trial batch for the US Airforce when the contract was cancelled. So I assume that Airbus does know about US mil specs. One of them has been used for test flying various systems for the MRTT.
            The A330 cockpit is as modern as it gets. It has the same architecture as the A350, so Airbus would be able to fit some A350 stuff.
            The boom is working well, with a very good camera system, it has been trialed with all relevant frames. Now Airbus can offer fully automatic operation.
            Airbus has been building different version for different airforces, several of them are able to refuel any US combat aircraft.

          • mjoelnir:

            The contract was appealed immediately, Airbus was awarded the initial contract (1.5 billion as I recall) . I do not believe they had any KC-45 air-frames (they may well have had A330MRT building or built already)

            The bid was overturned in 4-5 months.

            Boeing had a basis for the KC-46 already and it was 3 years before the USAF and Boeing agreed on the details.

            The first 4 KC-45 were to be built (converted) in Germany but that never happened.

          • The Kc-46 was civilian certified , specifically so it could be maintained by accredited civilian depots and access the civilian supply chain for parts , it is essentially a 767F .
            Boeing seems to have got the first maintenance contracts , but yet to see if there were the savings expected from the civilian supply chain

        • Interestingly the conversions of the A330-200 to KC30 MRTT were carried out by QANTAS defense services which is now owned by Northrop Grumman.

          • You have to wonder a the cost instead of just buying direct.

    • Interesting point.
      Mr. Biden has, after all, indicated that he wants to drastically cut US CO2 emissions, and the US armed forces are a HUGE polluter:

      “…the US military is one of the largest polluters in history, consuming more liquid fuels and emitting more climate-changing gases than most medium-sized countries. If the US military were a country, its fuel usage alone would make it the 47th largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the world, sitting between Peru and Portugal.”

      “In 2017, the US military bought about 269,230 barrels of oil a day and emitted more than 25,000 kilotons of carbon dioxide by burning those fuels. The US Air Force purchased $4.9 billion worth of fuel, and the Navy $2.8 billion, followed by the Army at $947 million and the Marines at $36 million.”

    • Sounds like teething problems to me, and a bit of piling on. You pay for what you get. Boeing should offer the KC 46, KC 87, and the KC 77X. Defense planes should be made here. Airbus could have problems too, when requirements are added and changed.

      • It HAS to be ‘production ready’, no new planes that need development to tanker standard allowed. It also needs to carry cargo as a secondary role , 787-800 hasn’t been developed for cargo deck or even cargo door , an interesting challenge for a thin carbon fiber barell fuselage

        • Duke:

          I have seen the 787 fuselage cross section in Everett, thin is not the word that described it, amazingly if not shockingly thick.

          The A350 would have the same issues adding a door and the floor as I don’t believe it was envisioned as a F aircrat as well.

          I don’t doubt both can be worked out if that is the way they decide to go.

          • Sources say those composite skins are really thin, after all an airliner aluminium skin is say 35 ‘thou’ of an inch. Doors and windows are reinforced areas and of course the skin has spaced stringers horizontally and circumference ring frames, all in composite too.

          • Duke:

            I have seen the actual cross section and its much thicker than the so called descriptions.

            Get someone to take a picture of the fuselage at Boeing Flight Center.

      • > Sounds like teething problems to me, and a bit of piling on. You pay for what you get. <

        If only..

    • Might have an issue with repairing composite fuselages in the field (787 and A350)

      USAF should request a clean sheet tanker proposal instead of older (40 years plus) commercial aircraft airframes

      The USAF can pay for new airframe development (material and mfg processes) so when Boeing wins, they can transfer the technology over to the next generation 737 replacement (e.g. no subsidies) Just like they used the B1 composite technology development on the 787

      • Not really. USAF is experienced in that with the fighters.

        Its nothing more than a molded patch and use of epoxy as it were. We did it all the time on boat repairs.

        CFRP is just more advanced than Fiberglass construction . In fact it was easier than a wooden hull repair.

        You just need the kit for it and they have plenty of experience with those repairs now (Ethiopian 787 meltdown in London)

      • dave p said …” Just like they used the B1 composite technology development on the 787″

        You mean the B2- while the B1 and B1A did use some composites and ‘ feathers” Both were/are basically aluminum – titanium airframes. Swing wing uses an all titanium wing box.

        B2 uses mostly carbon composite skins with some internal titanium structure.

        To meet various regs re use of military developed techniques on commercial, a lot of the ” development and test and manufacturing techniques ” work re carbon composite structure and skin had to be done over again. Some of the B2 work on composites was also incorporated on the Navy A7 wing replacement program done by Boeing.

        • And there is vast difference between a stealth skin and a 787 skin.

          You can’t just patch stealth but commercial composite its straight forward.

          The Leahy garbage on replacing whole skin section on an A350 for ramp damage was just BS. Unless the entire fuselage is damaged in a collision, you will just patch the ramp damage like a 787.

          Boeing did a big patch on the Ethiopian burned section. That was large enough a trail replacement was considered. In the end there were no spare tails and a patch worked and hugely faster vs trying to get a spare tail butil .

    • Yes, they have the B-21 on its way so doing a stealth tanker of it (maximizing fuel and minimizing weapons load to self defence systems and missiles) and maybe stretch the wings some more would be logical and avoids the problem with an enemy misidentifying a commercial airliner or cargo airctaft as a USAF tanker and blow it out of the sky.

      • The last is not any kind of an issue.

        As for B-21 stealth tanker, interesting idea but by the time you put a boom on it you no longer are stealthy.

        Your best bet is to have excellent aircraft range that you can fuel outside a radius of risk.

        One huge issue on the F-35 was the totally compromised fuselage shape to accommodate the lift fan which made for both a bad SFC shape and a fat one that has issues with acceleration. .

        Both GE and PW are working on an engine that combines good SFC and performance that is supposed to be a drop in for the F-35 CEO.

        • > Both GE and PW are working on an engine that combines good SFC and performance that is supposed to be a drop in for the F-35 CEO. <

          If the above is accurate, does it mean that the barely-ever-operational F-35 is somehow already due for a re-engining?

          • The F-35 engine works and seems to be within normal fighter ops and maint.

            The issue is that contested airspace is further out than it was before and what was ok at one time, range continues to be a major factor with tankers threatened by some of the new missile systems.

            The GE/PW adaptive engines program is a way (or an attempt) to get better range out of that poor shaped air frame as well as a way to get tankers further from any action or threat.

            Call it USAF lameness in having a bad program and then fixing it latter at huge costs.

          • “The F-35 engine works and seems to be within normal fighter ops and maint.”

            Guess not. F-35 is suffering from a shortage of engines, longer than expected maintenance turnaround and unscheduled engine repair. The F-35 has proven to be expensive and challenging to maintain.

          • Mostly it is the same lack of spares and capacity to overhaul.

            USAF decided it would do its own and did not allocated resources.

            Ergo, engines take too long for overhaul.

            As I understand it some of the back log is wear a bit sooner but its not huge, just enough with other factors to make a problem.

            The F-35 as a whole lacks spares and is part of the issue for in service.

            The engine is a small part of the F-35 issues including a maint computer system that is being replaced because its garbage (thank you LM)

            Equally the USAF is not proficient in overhaul of engines (that should be left to the mfg) but it gets jobs into the depots so they grabbed it.

        • Putting a boom on the B-21 will effect stealth but it might be done well.
          Getting new and better engines onto the F-35 might give the same effect as when the P-51A got the Merlin in the P-51D. The F-35B would need them first.
          The US could sell a few hundred old F-35A’s of varying mod standard to “Allied Forces” and then get new production F-35D’s.
          The F-35 is really made for a future war with nuclear bombs were it can sneak in and drop one and it is not optimal for todays warfares that has been conventional in deserts best suited for Blackburn Buccaneer and other old precision strike attack aircrafts.

          • Claes:

            Ironically all the P-51 needed was a two stage super charger.

            The Brits complained about the A, but their Typhoon and did not have high altitude performance either.

            The US Army air corp had decided medium altitude was it and would not let Allison developed the V-1710 to the same higher altitude as the Merlin was eventually)

            So, the US AAC switched engines and pretended they were smart all along.

            What is funny is the Brits complained about US stuff, but the Mosquitoe as great an aircraft as it was, was a killer on take off as the props turned the same way (loss of an engine and torque affect and you would be lucky to live)

            The P-38 had counter rotating props – a few parts changed and the Allison could drive either direction.

            The biggest Russian aces flew the P39 (yep, an Allison at low altitudes on the Easter Front)

            I am not saying the Merlin was not a good engine, it was. But you see the reports on the Spitfire cockpit and it was an ergonomic horror with a lot of manual engine ops to get max performance.

            Equally the Brits had it figured out that an Artificial Horizon was critial and all their aircrat were equipped with it (in the UK weather blind flying was all to often an aspects)

            The US Army Air corp was late to accept that, the USN were ahead of them.

            All Allison needed was the release to develop two stage super chargers and it would have exceeded the Merlin. It could also run on a major loss of coolant much better.

          • The Allison engine for P-51 did have a two stage supercharger , when used in the Lightning it even had the turbo chargers as well.
            Just a more compact version of the Merlin was available
            with all of above right away as the Spitfire was a very small plane by US standards at the time .
            A RR V12 the Kestrel was the engine in the prototype Bf109 and Merlin V12 was the engine used in the last Bf109s built in Spain after the end of the war

      • I think cultural collapse will arrive before an operational B-21™ does (if you know what I mean).

  9. If the administration gets it’s $6 Trillion infrastructure bill passed, I fear the Pentagon’s wish list will get slashed & trashed. Forgot any new tankers,
    forget the new B-21 , forget any new carriers ( bye bye CVN-81) , F-35 procurements will be slashed. Not gonna be pretty 🙁

    • On the other hand, there’s a renewed sentiment/paranoia that “the Reds are coming”, so the chiefs at the Pentagon may be able to exploit that in order to get their toys 😏

    • > If the administration gets it’s $6 Trillion infrastructure bill passed <

      Not gonna happen.

      • “President [Edited] Biden struck an infrastructure deal on Thursday with a bipartisan group of senators, signing on to their plan to provide about $579 billion in new investments in roads, broadband internet, electric utilities and other projects in hopes of moving a crucial piece of his economic agenda through Congress..”

        “in hopes of.” heh / not serious

        Happy Days are Here Again at DoD, though..

  10. Probably there’s a major lobby going on already to steer the requirements into the direction of what Boeing wants to sell.

    Lets be real, Boeing & the 777 need a boost. So..

    I can see congress soon coming to the insight that Asia importance has grown & capability really needs to be Pacific transfer this time. If LM/A can offer the same for lower costs, extra points must be given for access capability. This time.

    As said, watch the battle for convincing congress to get the requirements “right”

    • Yes, it reminds me of the original 1950s tanker competition which was won by Lockheed with it’s proposed 4 engine jet tanker transport, and yet the specification was rewritten around Boeing’s flying prototype -Dash80- which became the KC-135.

      • The Dash 80 was flying, Lockheed was not only not flying but also rear engine type (no idea why DC-8 was not a basis for bid)

        The L-193 was never built as an Airliner, it also was an older design without the experience of the B-47 or the B-52 Boeing had behind it.

        For an interim solution the Dash 80 had it over the L-193 and there simply was no reason to change once it was in service for a totally unknown aircraft and development.

    • If the B777 was chosen, I wonder if they would go with: the -200ER, the LR, or the new X-8….

  11. in the original AF planning around KC-X/Y/Z the KC-X was supposed to be a KC-135 replacement, KC-Y a KC-10 replacement and Z was supposed to be “new and advanced” read stealthy.

    When Airbus offered the KC-330, which was more a KC-10 equivalent than a KC-135 equivalent and won based on being bigger more than anything, Boeing protested (rightly based on the rules of the game) and won, then knowing Airbus’s price decided to take a loss on the dev contract for the recompete.

    KC-Y was always supposed to be ~777-200 sized to fulfil the cargo & fuel role of the KC-10

    so now they are changing the game on KC-Y to be “off the shelf”, but we know they won’t stick to that, since the _only_ truly off the shelf option will be the KC-46, since the A-330MRTT does not meet US military reqs for wiring separation etc, nor is it equipped with US military certified avionics and systems.

    I expect Boeing will have managed to resolve the vast majority of issues with the KC-46 by the time KC-Y goes out to bid, and so will be able to offer a fully compliant aircraft, a hot production line already cranking out 24/year, early delivery, aircrew, maintenance, logistics and training commonality and bottom dollar since there will be zero new development.

    • It is a tad easier to separate systems and battle harden a FBW aircraft, so Lockheed Martin might know what is required to tick all the USAF spec’s checklists (especially after hearing all the stories what Boeing had to do converting a KC-767 to a KC-46A).

      • the problems boeing had with separation were all wiring related. how does FBW make that easier given there are even more wires?

        re battle hardening – how is FBW more EMP resistant than hydraulics and cables?

        • It can be done but the cost is?

          As the A330MRT X tanker proposal was accepted, they would have had fixes for those aspects. At what cost is unknown.

          Boeing can easily crank up the KC-46 production.

          • > Boeing can easily crank up the KC-46 production. <

            Is the KC-46 a functional-for-designed-purpose aircraft?

            Not seeing it.

          • The KC-46 is a basic 767 air frame and the process to convert it is well understood at this time.

            There are as many KC-46 flying as there are A330MRT in service (and discount 14 of the UK A330s as they are not boom equipped)

            If the USAF wanted them faster Boeing could ramp up or as the 767F get delivered, shift over to the shorter fuselage.

            While the USAF wants fully capable KC-46, you also have to consider the shift over costs and plans that would have to be adjusted to do so.

            The A330 has to undergo the same conversion processes to become a A330MRT, its not purpose built either.

  12. ‘US opens $500M fund for families of Boeing 737 MAX victims’:

    “..The compensation fund is part of a $2.5 billion settlement with the Justice Department that also includes a more than $240 million fine and almost $1.8 billion in compensation to airlines that were unable to use their MAX jets while they were grounded for nearly two years.
    Prosecutors charged Boeing with fraud over the certification of the 737 MAX.
    AFP via Getty Images
    The compensation fund is part of a $2.5 billion settlement with the Justice Department that also includes a more than $240 million fine and almost $1.8 billion in compensation to airlines that were unable to use their MAX jets while they were grounded for nearly two years.
    Prosecutors charged Boeing with fraud over the certification of the 737 MAX.

    >> The settlement allowed Boeing to avoid criminal prosecution<<, but civil litigation by victims’ relatives remains ongoing.
    The settlement allowed Boeing to avoid criminal prosecution, but civil litigation by victims’ relatives remains ongoing.."

    Ye Olde "rogue employees" corporatist ploy prevails yet again.

    No accountability for the corporatists: that no one from Boing went to jail over the *insane*, opaque, single-sensor, not-in-flight-manuals MCAS system is just so telling..


  13. “And for illegal subsidies …”
    An anaphora to portray the KC-X competition, what a magnificent figure of rhetorical speech. Written by a wonderful Leeham team. Thank you.

    • > “And for illegal subsidies …”
      An anaphora to portray the KC-X competition, what a magnificent figure of rhetorical speech. <

      Yes, that really was good stuff!

  14. OV-999 said: “Well, it’s not as if LM will have to develop their offering from scratch. They will be using an already operational MRTT system from Airbus. LM will essentially only be putting some additional Mil-Spec hardware on it..”

    Yes, that’s my take as well; so how does this (from the above piece) fit? : “..This time, Lockheed Martin will be the prime contractor with Airbus as a partner..”

    Regarding the F-35: where the blame lies for that ongoing debacle is still up for debate; lots and lots of money still to be made for the usual suspects (all of them, private and “public”)..

    “we’ll have it completely sorted w/ Block 37BS$4U, in FY2073..”

    • LM will handle a lot of the paper work and take a vig on the profit margin.

      • > LM will handle a lot of the paper work and take a vig on the profit margin. <

        If by "paper work" you mean bribery, I agree.


        it won't be long now

    • As I’ve indicated, LM will undertake what is currently being done at the Airbus Military Conversion Center in Getafe, Spain.

      In addition, LM will also add integral armour to provide some protection to the crew and critical systems and metallic (copper/steel) shielding in order to protect or harden items against EMP effects. The KC-46A EMP design margin was based on Military Standard (MIL‑STD)-2169. After the fixed-price contract was awarded, a new MIL‑STD-3023 was released that called for tanker aircraft to meet a 20 dB EMP design margin versus a 6 dB EMP design margin in the KC-X RFP. AFAIK, the actual KC-46A EMP design margin has yet to be determined. A LM/Airbus KC-45B (i.e. A330-800 MRTT) would meet the MIL-STD-3023 specification.

      One should keep in mind that the KC‑46A, for example, has approximately 60 percent more wiring than a standard commercial 767-200 aircraft, which would seem to indicate that there is plenty of work to be undertaken by LM as “prime” contractor. It also worth mentioning, that with a larger diameter airframe, it’s easier to integrate new wiring and the extra metallic hardening.

      Please do take a look on how things are done at the Airbus Military Conversion Center in Getafe, Spain:

      • No disagreement with the overall but its not a will add this or that.

        It would be addressed specifically to what the RFP calls for, be it wiring separation or ballistic armor.

        There are a lot of defense and comm aspects to the KC-46 that are not disclosed publicly.

        While I think it unlikely, the RFP could also focus it on a KC-10 replacement and then operationally those would not be forward deployed into the types of ops the KC-46 is supposed to be used for.

        I have yet to see anything written as to how tasked the KC-10 group is vs KC-135R as well as how they position and station them.

  15. U S military do not buy secondhand aircraft. They keep their planes for a long time. Why should US taxpayers spend their money sustaining european jobs program. The French were adamant that US company can not supply engines for A400 and they can not bid on A330MRTT.

    • It would have a final assembly in US- which is all that required- and a good portion of A330 is US made anyway. The portion of european content didnt matter in the original competition.
      Do you realize how much of the KC-46 is made in Japan ?
      A400M paid for development of a new engine (.. dearly), Pratts proposal wasnt an in production engine, their biggest TP is the little PT6 which was 10% of power required , and its ‘made in Canada’

      • Keejse:

        Its a big driver in any country, the US is probably the most open of any country. But reality is its a political issue for any country.

        The US bought the C-27 (USAF killed it but those are now serving with the US Coast Guard nicely)

        Two European helicopters are no serving in the US armed service (trainers). The US licensed the Rhinemetal 120 mm.

        HK is providing a rifle to the USMC, Sig has the pistol contract.

        But when it comes to large hardware its a hard sell and a question as to why would you take a political hit for no real gain?

        Australia in some ways has been rationalizing their buying and going with stock US equipment for commonality sake (M1/C17/FA-18 some helicopters). Any US upgrade automatically fits into that equipment.

        But the flip is their submariner program they want to build in Australia and the incredible cost involved. The Collins had huge issues until they sorted it out as it was Australia specific combination of system that did not work.

        Its an impossible situation for logic as that gets tangled up in the politics.

        • > Its a big driver in any country, the US is probably the most open of any country. <

          Not sure what is meant by "most open";
          if "least corrupt" is what's meant, the Exceptional Nation would not fare well.

          Scandinavian countries do much better (for now, for now..).

          • Bill7:

            Who is allowed to bid. The A400 contract started out as a civie style program and P&W got the engine (a logical choice, PW has huge experience and PW Turbo Props are made in Canada which is all but a Europa country)

            then politics popped up, so they formed a 3 or 4 entity ops that had never worked together and designed a Franken-engine that took forever to get working (and a crash due to software muck up)

            The A330MRT in European service were just awarded to Airbus, there was no competition.

            I think Europe has like 4 or 5 Main Battle tanks. That is nuts. Don’t buy US, fine, buy Leopards and save huge money, but no.

          • Pratt didn’t have an engine in that thrust class, it was a paper project and they would have been as much in the dark as Europrop.
            Those little Canadian turboprops are almost toys in comparison, the existing bigger TPs made in US aren’t from P&W

    • apparently you haven’t heard of the E-8, all of which were built on second hand 707 airframes. the Air Force has bought several dozen used 707s for conversion into special mission aircraft.

      they have also bought many used King Air 350s and other small aircraft and helicopters for special mission aircraft.

      a large percentage of every “new” army helicopter buy is actually old heli airframes that were stripped down and remanufactured. look at the numbers on the AH-1Z, UH-1Y, AH-64 D and E programs, Chinook and Blackhawk programs. often as much as 70% remanufactured airframes.

      • I believe they gave up on the UH and maybe the AH air frames and went with new.

        All of those aircraft are in service and bought and paid for. Its upgraded more than anything and if you look the UK has decided to replace all its old Chinooks rather than upgrade as they don’t get the benefit of the new air frames built that way.

        I just do not see used A330 being considered for that number of tankers.

        Australia was an exception for their own reasons.

        With commonality and the experience in 707 air frames it made sense to procure those but that is in very low numbers

        Japan went with 767 for their AWACs using the existing systems from the 707 AWACS hulls

  16. What about a potential 767-4F based tanker with GEnx engines? Some common systems with the KC-46, and a future freighter for FedEx and UPS.

    • fedex and ups do love their 767 freighters.

      whether they love them enough to pay boeing to develop a 767 re-engine based on an engine that is legal to sell after 2026 is a separate question.

      there will be hundreds of used 767s sitting in the desert begging for the P2F conversion which will be enormously cheap compared to a new build.

      • FedEx opted to stay with the old 767 cockpit and the -400 never was in the running (may have been too much size for the 767F missions profile they run)

        Interesting UPS fly’s their 767s out of the US and internationally often and do a different flight profile than FedEx.

        UPS went with the winglet mods and FedEx did not (assume shorter runs and not worth it)

        Same air frame and slots in to two quite different operations.

        • The 767 was a *real good* plane. Anyone have some solid numbers on its efficiency
          relative to its successors?

          • Its about 10-15% less efficient than a 787 which is the closest valid comparison.

            Putting winglets on the 767 closed that gap which sans winglets was about 20%.

            Put a GEN-X engine on it and it likely be 8% (you sure don’t want an RR engine!)

            767 sold 1000 commercially, that is a heck of a good production run as well as forcing Airbus out of that segment.

  17. Wouldn’t it make more sense for AB to offer a ‘neo’ version of it’s MRTT to further enhance their offering and increase the delta between the 767; a d kind of leapfrog the whole way (or pretty close) to the KC-Z.

    Benefits to AB would be a well funded, high-output USAF order to cover the costs of the inevitable ceo-2-neo alterations to the MRTT (understanding aerodynamic effects on the booms of the neo tweaks etc. and software updates to compensate as one would assume as the airframe is pretty much identical bar the wing aerodynamics).

    Would the RR engine be a no-no?

    • Of course, LM and Airbus will offer a KC-Y based on an A330neo MRTT. In fact, a 251 metric tonnes MTOW A330-800 MRTT that would have an A345-type 19,930 litre (5,260USgal) rear centre tank (RCT) integrated into the lower rear fuselage, would be significantly more capable than the KC-10 — and with, at least, a 40 percent lower fuel consumption.

      Such an offer cannot be easily countered by a KC-46A derivative. As I see it, it’s already game, set ….. and a couple of match balls away from LM/Airbus securing the KC-Y contract.

      If being awarded the contract, Airbus should IMJ make the A330neo an “American” aircraft. They should move as much as possible of the manufacturing of the A330neo to the United States (i.e. not only FAL but fuselage and wing assembly as well). By 2029, the A330neo will have had its run as a passenger aircraft and Airbus should be gearing up to produce its first hydrogen-powered aircraft. Hence, ending A330 production in Europe by the end of the decade, will have very little negative impact on the Airbus workforce in Europe.

      As for the Trent 7000 engine, please do keep in mind that LM/Airbus have to reach a 55% U.S. content (i.e. new Buy American Act increases the domestic content requirement from 50% to 55%). If the manufacturing of the A330neo were to be moved to the United States, the U.S. content would exceed the 55% threshold. However, there’s nothing stopping RR moving Trent-7000 manufacturing to a new plant located in the United States. They are, after all, bidding for the B-52 re-engining programme.

      • The counter to that is the A330NEO MRT would have to be re-certified at a major expense and the cost of commonality with the existing A330MRT.

        Moving the A330 production out of Europe is probably impossible politically.

        The Trent 7000 is a non common engine and not a lot of them around as the A330NEO is not selling well (granted that could change).

        But as tankers in US service tend to under 1000 hours a year, that is not a bonus percentage wise of the whole RFP cost analysis.

        Equally no USAF flight line has mechanics trained for it nor the parts system in place.

        I don’t see Airbus even thinking about it unless the RFP has language that makes the change a benefit and the A330MRT now has those benefits as well as a well known US engine option (two)

      • Rolls has an existing plant and has long supplied engines for US military.
        It’s the former Allison plant and development center in Indianapolis.
        Buy America Act can have waivers and isn’t likely to be a problem

        • Anything can be done given enough money. Why would Airbus shift out of the A330MRTCEO for a huge loss (even if they got the contract?).

          There is zero indication Airbus plans on doing a A330NEO MRT. There simply is no return in it for the low hours a tanker flies each year.

          But what RR has in the US is inherited from Allison and is not part of the jet engine build system RR has for civilian purposes. That is another major cost.

          Equally there is no incentive to move the A330F production to the US per previous plan as there are no orders for it now.

          Anyone that has done contracts understands the adders involved. If you get no incentive for an adder you do not do it.

          Which is where the last RFP came to rest, no adders to offset the higher A330MRT price. 10% is a hell of a lot of money.

          • > Which is where the last RFP came to rest, no adders to offset the higher A330MRT price. 10% is a hell of a lot of money. <

            Not certain I'm understanding the above correctly; but if the mentioned price difference
            differential is between the 330MRTT and the KC-46, is it not significant that the former aircraft works and the latter one (so far) does not? Including enduring, non-technical issues like FOD in the Boing product, likely having to do with workforce

            In short: paying 10% more for an aircraft that works as advertised, right out of the box might not be a bad deal.

          • Bill7:

            The problem with your response is it lacks the history.

            First and foremost, when all the factors of an RFP are assessed (there are factors for risk etc – the 767 had been tankered and the A330 had not.). No A330MRT existed. Low bid takes it just like a road project.

            There was not any version of the A330MRT in service when the KC-46 was award (February of 2011)

            Australia order the first A330MRT (it was not build to KC-X specs) and they got the first one in June 2011.

            It had various issues including boom, fuel passing on the drogues.
            It was not until 2016 that it cleared the RAAF specs and declared fully operational (it met the RAAF specs at that point.

            That is what people just commenting miss. Airbus had not built any tanker off the A330, Boeing had built 5 for Italy as well as sustaining contract of KC-135R and KC-10.

            No one knew at that time Airbus sub contractor was going to do a good job on the remote vision boom system and Boeing would fail.

            If the RFP had been written that you got an adder for freight, the KC330MRT would have written down some of the KC-46 10% cost. Not all of it, but some. The RFP was not written that way because the program was supposed to be as direct a KC-135R replacement (and that has little freight capacity)

            More fuel if it had been an adder, same thing. But it was not for the same reason.

            We can look back now and see the A330MRT overall was done better.

            But it had its issues and even to a lower RAAF specification it took 5 years to clear those issues.

            To say the KC-45 would have had no issues is baloney, it would have had all the issues the RAAF encountered and probably more.

            The KC-46 was in fact the most direct replacement for the KC-135R.

            If you don’t need the freight capacity nor the fuel you bring back anyway, then the A330MRT/KC-45 is more than you need.

            Its pathetic Boeing has executed so poorly on the KC-46, the boom system being the worst in a direct comparison to the A330MRT.

            But the A330MRT in a any form had not been delivered nor was working at the time.

          • Well, technically, Allison makes the small turboshaft engine for helicopters, sold a zillion.

            Allison makes the engines for C-130J, which is FAA certified.

          • Rolls Royce promises to build the replacement for B-52 engines in its Indianapolis plant, the former Allison where fighter jet engines were produced years ago.

            Their candidate engine is already in service with USAF on Bombardier and Gulfstream business jets used for special purposes.

            Allison division of R-R already makes modern turbofan engines for Embraer and Cessna airplanes. besides large turboshaft engines for C-130J and V-22 tiltrotor aircraft.

  18. I guess LM will try to ensure taht the goal posts can’t be easily moved during the process because of political / public pressure.

    I believe skilled engineers from Boeing Airbus, DoD, USAF pretty well know what the offerings are going to be and what’s a reasonable price and what is needed & valuable. But they seem hardly in charge 😐

    For either the KC-46 or MRTT variants the GENX could be a consideration because of 40 years fuel costs, sustainment and credible environmental footprint management.

    • keeje:

      The goal post moving last time was done by the USAF. I felt it was actually a benefit to the US to get A330 production here.

      But at 1000 hours or less use per year (typical for a KC-135R I believe is 800)

      So a GENX and adding another new engine to the A330 would be a tiny percentage of the overall program cost (and low environmental impact relatively speaking)

      At this point the KC-46 wins hands down if the RFP does not accommodate the A330 capability in fuel carry (most is brought back) of if the USAF does not make a big adder for the freight ability.

      Hangars and ramp footprint are also significant factors. Possibly overcome with staging in locations that was not an issue at some loss of flexibility.

      Neither Airbus or LM could pull off a major change unless they stood a chance with a different RFP.

      It all hinges on the RFP and if that does allow A330 advantages to be used.

      • TW, the KC46A can carry freight or military pax, the A330 tanker more because it is a bigger airplane. Deliberately made versatile, whereas the KC-135’s multi-role capability is limited but does exist.

        In the reverse direction, the Canadian Forces added Beech refuelling drogue systems to most of the B707 and A310 aircraft it had for logistics purposes, as well as a large cargo door. Canada recently selected the A330 Multi-Role Tanker Transport to replace the A310s.

        My memory is that USAF preferred to keep replacement tanker size similar to the KC-135, including for ramp space and hanger requirements. That depends on which bases are most important and on willingness to enlarge hangers and ramps.

        Side note: the US military operates C-130s to refuel slower airplanes like helicopters, using drogue systems. And note that some US forces other than USAF use drogue systems to refuel their fixed wing airplanes, and perhaps tilt-rotor aircraft.

  19. The alphabet gets confusing.

    My memory is that KC-Y was to replace the rest of the KC-135s with similar, IIRC the ones that were re-engine with CFM-56s (the KC-X batch had what are essentially JT3D-x turbofan engines as used on the last of the 707s). The original turbojets having either been taken out of service or less likely re-engined (they had other deficiencies such as rudder and yaw damper, at one time USAF was cannibilizing old 707-320C airplanes to get those components and their engines).

    KC-Z was to replace the larger KC-10 tankers used to refuel larger airplanes.

    USAF may be thinking of going for that size sooner, perhaps due operational requirements, perhaps to get competition, I suggest both.

    Note there is a plan to re-engine B-52s with eight much newer engines, that would reduce refuelling needs. (Any operational B-52s probably have the equivalent of the JT3D- series engines. USAF turned down offers from Rolls and Pratt to lease four of 757-size engines, that would require new pylons whereas the new eight plan would not.) I don’t know where the B-52 plan is.

    Tanker logistics are variable, I read that they often return from a mission with quite a bit of fuel not offloaded, but better to have enough as fighter needs can vary with activity and length of their mission.

    Hopefully tankers have missile countermeasures onboard. (Gee, with rumoured feasibility of arming P-8 and KC-46A airplanes with active weapons, they can be more versatile. (Those two types having hard points on the wings, in the KC-46A case for drogue refuelling pods, in the P-8 case for depth charges against ships like submarines, I think.)

    • Keith:

      The Y has always been speculative. It was never firmed up, no RFP ever written (they had failed miserably on just the X)

      KC-135R is the modernized engine (CFM) and other features. Others are in storage.

      B-52 new engine upgrade is in progress. It was deemed an major issue to try to put a single engine in place of two engines, so the new engines that would slot in place of the existing.

      P&W in my view has the inside track with the PW 800 variant (core of the GTF) as the most fuel efficient modern core and weight.

      The issue with the A330 was it carried a lot of fuel but no used as the KC-135 have not been short (and bring back a lot)

      The KC-10 advantage was for B-52, C-17, C5 that take major fuel loads but at the cost of a small and very obsolete fleet (FedEx has dumped or is dumping theirs as fast as they can and they put a lot of money into the MD-10 to update it).

      P-8: No one uses depth charges, its torpedoes.

    • And on a related note, there’s this story (also on the LNA twitter feed this morning):

      Seattle Times: “Czech airline sues Boeing in Seattle over 737 MAX losses”

      “The airline’s complaint alleges that in implementing a software addition to the MAX’s flight controls, “Boeing chose a cheap and hastily implemented bandaid” rather than more expensive aerodynamic changes to the airframe.

      Smartwings also alleges that Boeing failed to conduct a full safety evaluation of the failure modes of the software, known as the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, and then “misled the Federal Aviation Administration and other regulators regarding the nature and purpose of MCAS.”

      It further accuses Boeing of “material misrepresentations and nondisclosures” to pilots and the airline for not flagging the existence of MCAS before the first crash and of “gross negligence and fraud.”

      After the first crash in October 2018 of a Lion Air MAX in Indonesia, Smartwings officials wrote to Boeing demanding answers about the safety of the system but received no substantive response, according to the complaint.

      “Smartwings would not have committed to an all-MAX fleet or accepted delivery of any MAX had it known what has since been uncovered by outside investigators and what Boeing has grudgingly admitted,” the complaint states.”

  20. TW said: “..The Concurrent production was one major key to the F-35 program failure..”

    Some call that a self-licking ice cream cone.. and they’ll try “concurrency” again; just watch.

    Littoral “Combat” ship
    Ford-class carrier
    B-21 (not apparent yet, but just watch)

    and on, and on, and on, and on, and..


    • The T-7A looks like what should be done, two protype, work out the issues and into produion

      The so called wing rock is supply solve (they had that in the works already so you have to wonder about USAF making an issue of it before they saw the result of the attempted fix)

      The USAF has changed its mind, program is no 9 month not 15 months due to Covd and supplier issue

      Boeing states its 7 months and that was understood for a while. Will see of course.

      But yes the LCS, Ford makes you want to beat you head on a brick wall to make the pain not so bad.

      B-21 unknown at this point.

      • AW: A new delay and a design problem raise questions about Boeing’s digital approach to T-7A design

        • Any problem raises question all around.

          but a knee jerk the sky is falling is totally inaccurate.

          Boeing says they fixed the wing rock, we will know soon. SAAB also had a program issue on it Grippen and I believe the F-22 had an issue. It all programing that for a flying system is incredibly complex and only real world testing will show if it needs to be tuned. That is common to all control software. Here is the report on the Grippen.

          “Saab rolled out the first Gripen on 26 April 1987, marking the company’s 50th anniversary.[25] Originally planned to fly in 1987,[17] the first flight was delayed by 18 months due to issues with the flight control system. On 9 December 1988, the first prototype (serial number 39-1) took its 51-minute maiden flight with pilot Stig Holmström at the controls.[16][26] During the test programme, concern surfaced about the aircraft’s avionics, specifically the fly-by-wire flight control system (FCS), and the relaxed stability design. On 2 February 1989, this issue led to the crash of the prototype during an attempted landing at Linköping; the test pilot Lars Rådeström walked away with a broken elbow. The cause of the crash was identified as pilot-induced oscillation, caused by problems with the FCS’s pitch-control routine.[16][27][28]”

          Note it took 18 months to even get it flyable. then a crash. None of the FBW work is simple and much harder in a fighter (or a trainer that emulates a fighter)

          Everyone is report supplier and Covd delays.

          Keep an open mind, watch the benchmarks and if they resolved them or not.

          All programs have issues, if they are resolved the way they are said to be that is different than an ongoing litany of issue per the KC-46.

          None of the listed has any appearance of the Digital Design aspects. It does not mean it can’t happen or will happen but right now it looks like its not.

  21. >Uwe
    June 23, 2021

    .. and it gets a complete redo due to not working 🙂 <

    What's the problem with that? There's money to be made, Man; pesky ol' "working" be damned!

  22. TW said: “..And selling a stealth aircraft as close air support, just insane.And selling a stealth aircraft as close air support, just insane..”

    F-35s at what, (honestly) $150,000,000 apiece- as a replacement for cheap, superbly-functioning Warthogs..

    sure, sure

    the show’s almost over.

    • There are 500 KC-135R in use by the US.

      Another 60 or so KC-10.

      See the numbers at beginning of the comments.

      Unless the US just drops its entire military system then the answer is yes.

      Somewhere in the number of 500 tankers plus or minus and as noted, private firms are being hired to support in US training operations.

      • > Unless the US just drops its entire military system then the answer is yes. private firms are being hired to support in US training operations. <

        That melding is not a good sign, to me.

        • I don’t know good or bad. Reality is that they believe they need it for fill in which means the tanker numbers are too low to support all the ops they want (or need) to do.

      • Wow, TW is correct, almost 500 KC-135Rs.

        The KC-135 was a long program for Boeing, many more than 500 produced (only some retrofitted with CFM-56 engines).

        Some KC-135s may still be in spook operations along with modified 707s.

        Note that the KC-135 is to some degree a multi-role aircraft, but KC46 and A330 tanker are better at that.

        If I read correctly, only a few KC-135s could receive fuel, whereas many of the RAF’s Victor tanker conversions could. During the show-the-fist exercise bombing the Falkland Islands, tankers were offloading to tankers to accompany Vulcans closer to target, returning to takeoff point for reload to meet the Vulcans and other tankers coming back. An incredible exercise to support one (yes 1) Vulcan bombing target (a backup Vulcan would return early, the most serviceable one continued to target. All in radio silence – just be where you are supposed to be when you are supposed to be.

        • Technically there may have been an occasional blip of code in case of problem.

          Amazingly, the worst problem was merely that the refuelling part of the tanker’s drogue broke off in a Vulcan’s receptacle so it diverted to Brazil. Eventually released after fussing and diplomacy.

          There’s a diagram of the refuelling logistics on the Internet, complex, had to be done right – perhaps crew schedulers could learn from it. 🙂

          But the Royal Navy’s Sea Harriers may have inflected more damage on the runway than the Vulcans did, albeit at risk from the Argentine navy. (Argentina had left the Falklands without fighter airplanes to defend, fearing invasion of the mainland.)

      • Interesting due large quantity of KC-135Rs still to be replaced even considering KC-46A may do more than just one KC-135R.

        Interesting that USAF are retiring one-quarter of their KC-10 fleet, and a few KC-135Rs, to afford getting KC-46A tankers into service.

        And there’s a big question about need for stealthy tankers to support fighters like the F-35 that are limited in range. risky for tankers to get close to fighter target territory when US cannot control airspace as it could over Afghanistan and Iraq. One suggestion is to have a tanker version of the B-21 stealthy bomber, whatever it looks like.

        • In trivia, the US flew used 707s retrofitted with JT8D-219 engines from MD-80s (essentially the 7Q7 conversion program) – the E-8 surveillance program,

          (It uses SLAR in a canoe under the forward fuselage, primarily to detect things on or near the ground.

          Some of the airframes and a bunch of parts came from the Canadian military. At least some of CF’s 707s were built for Western Airlines but not delivered. An oddity is that those airframes had Freon-based air conditioning as it performed better than air-cycle type.

  23. > TransWorld
    June 23, 2021

    Its about 10-15% less efficient than a 787 which is the closest valid comparison.
    Putting winglets on the 767 closed that gap which sans winglets was about 20%.
    Its about 10-15% less efficient than a 787 which is the closest valid comparison.
    Putting winglets on the 767 closed that gap which sans winglets was about 20%.
    Put a GEN-X engine on it and it likely be 8% (you sure don’t want an RR engine!)

    767 sold 1000 commercially, that is a heck of a good production run as well as forcing Airbus out of that segment. <

    Thanks for that.

    Really nice plane, and one I am sentimentally attached to.
    Scott H says a re-engined 767 is not going to happen (no FBW, for one thing!), and that's almost surely correct.

    • ‘767 sold 1000 commercially, that is a heck of a good production run as well as forcing Airbus out of that segment”
      The reverse happened , the A330 replacement for A300 killed off 767 passenger versions, which shows in deliveries of 767, apart from top-ups and cargo versions, dried up after the mid 2000’s ( ie 100 deliveries from say 2005 to 2015 , when KC45 began)
      The total , around 1200 is because they started in

      • Duke:

        Time line is wrong. The A300 came first, Boeing countered with the 767, then Airbus countered with the A300-600?. That was not a real success.

        The A300 real success was FedEx and the trade of 747s for those as an F conversion that worked well in the FedEx system (stateside, we seldom saw on in Anchorage)

        Then they stretched it into the very successful A330 to deal with the 767.

        The 767 market did not go away, that is where the 787 sits, data says it needed a more efficient aircraft to counter the A330 pax numbers.

        The 767 might well have come back with a new engine and the winglets as the efficiency would be down in the single digits. Maybe not, NEO historically has not been a success (the MAX and A320NEO are clearly exceptions)

        The 787 would have cut into the A330 production but they blew it and the A330 had its most successful run as there was high demand and no 787s during the debacle times (or the first debacle times).

        • The sales numbers show the 767 has petered out since the early 2000’s only really selling freighter versions and a few top ups for existing airlines.
          The later A300-600 and its smaller sibling A310 sold nearly 570 which was a respectable number for a new entrant.
          It was very advanced thinking to upgrade to a FBW version, Boeing didnt get the hint

          • Duke said ..” It was very advanced thinking to upgrade to a FBW version, Boeing didnt get the hint”

            partly correct- but most do not realize that basic 767 used/uses minimal cable and hydraulic backup of flight controls. ( see Gimli glider )

            Fully -properly hardening a FBW ‘ only’ system against EMP is not trivial. For example see the current tanker fiasco starting with producing the first few tankers with commercial routed wiring systems cuz the new whiz kids couldn’t or didn’t read the specs.

  24. > While the USAF wants fully capable KC-46, you also have to consider the shift over costs and plans that would have to be adjusted to do so. <

    Say *what*? Isn't a "fully capable" refueling tanker the essence of the task?

    "Oh, a working Product costs much, much extra.." [shakes head and sighs]

    no longer a serious culture

  25. The main question is:
    After the drama the last 3 times, does Airbus take its same head and run against the same brick wall again?
    It had the superior product, no matter what, was on the market, development was already done and they had an operating tanker.

    Boeing won for political reasons, no doubt about that.
    Karma struck and Boeing is paying the price now, the USAF did get what they paid for and has the KC46 not combat-ready.
    So that’s what happens when you buy nationality over quality.
    Boeing is 5 bn. down and Airbus can sit on the sideline laughing.

    The question is if they see a real chance, as the USAF now knows which is the better product.

    • Boeing won because of more experience with the tanker, with the booms, lower risk and lower cost.

      Now it’s probably gonna be little John passed his year with D’s and E’s, because his father is the head teacher.

      Marketing Communication budget and experts hired to make it feel good.

    • Airbus can still reap benefit out of this: by offering the A330 tanker for a sharp price, Boeing will be forced to undercut in order to win the contract (at least when playing by the rules). Once production begins, the cost overruns will mount for Boeing, causing financial pain.

      • Sash:

        What you ignore is the the USAF did not play by its own rule (the RFP).

        That is a legal document. It is illegal to change it. The USAF changed it during the award and that was knocked down (rarely done).

        Airbus had its issues with the A330MRT, Australia (first buyer) took 5 years to get it into spec compliance.

        Neither the A330MRT or the KC-46 is superior to the other. They are two very different air frame categories. Pure fuel load a 777 or a 747 would be both hollow.

        We will never know if Airbus would have done well on the KC-45, ie US RFP specs, none were ever built.

        Airbus clearly did an a superior job on the Boom Vision system.

        Both Airframes have had an excellent service record , neither one is better than the other, different slots.

        The sad part of the KC-46 is most of the issue are bone headed. The vision system was failed execution.

        The A330 being heavier burns more fuel and it carries more fuel it burns even more. That is a life cycle cost that airlines avoid as they carry more passengers and offset it. A tanker is not a passenger ops even if the air frame is derived from one.

        The KC-135 has been doing fine service for 60 years. What the USAF asked for was a KC-13 replacement, not a new freighter that could tanker.

        All the freight capability of a KC330MRT is wasted on a tanking mission and the tanking ability is lost if its hauling freight.

        The USAF has multiple aircraft paths for freight and people movement (its own fleet, lease fleet and CFP in time of need).

        Australia and other felt the ability to do both was a benefit. I am not going to argue their decisions. That was how their RFP worked out.

        The one puzzler is South Korea who does not have any real out of area movements like Australia does. It may be they wanted a full in service guarantee vs the KC-46 and again that is a national decision you have to respect.

        The KC-46 in its life saves a lot on fuel burn, it can be put on ramps at spacing the A330MRT cannot. How that all works out is a national spec not better or worse.

        Boeing in the clean RFP underbid Airbus by 5 billion. Either saved or you can buy 15-20 tankers for that.

        Boeing will resolve the vision issue, it will long term perform equally to the KC-135 and the A330MRT.

        There is no question its a sad commentary on the state of Boeing for its failures.

        As noted, the C-17 was almost cancelled over its issue and has gone onto a stellar career. That is not uncommon in military procurement.

        The F-35 looks to never overcome its failures. That also happens and should not. T

    • It says 82 787s that have been built and flown but remain to be delivered. That means little free cash flow I assume. Probably that’s not the case at all though..

    • Well, the yard sale of MAX whitetails is going well, so that’s freeing up a lot of storage space in parking lots. Good timing!

    • I remember Lufthansa picked up 5 B787-9 white tail in early May, delivery from 2021 to Q2 2022.

      Boeing recorded the cancellation “officially” later in the month.

      According to Dominic Gates, Boeing delivered one B787 in June which “was cleared for delivery last fall”. It “still awaits FAA approval to resume broader deliveries.”

      • It’s taking the FAA an inordinately long time to lay an egg on this matter, isn’t it?
        And the lack of any communication/clarification in the meantime is not what one would have expected from a “more transparent” FAA/BA…is it?

    • Reuters reports CAPA estimates Indian airlines to take delivery 69 jets this years. Can Boeing deliver any B737 MAX to Indian airlines this year?

  26. If the US bought a relatively small fleet to replace the KC10, could they get away with the passenger version of the MRT like the UK? Its a compromise, but would save money and the US has plenty of other options.
    I can’t see how either aircraft can justify old inefficient engines with what will be mature and much better options. The virtuous circle of fuel efficiency is much more important and war winning for the military

    • That not so . The UK has a refueling version of the MRTT, just that it uses wing pods with trailing drogues because that is what ALL its combat fast jets use. They have bought the F-35B version , also uses probe- drogue to refuel, other Nato countries, plus Israel and Japan have F35A version which is USAF style boom receiver.

      • Grubbie:

        There are two refueling systems.

        The USAF uses a boom for its fighters and the bombers as well as C-17 and C5A. Why it continues the boom on fighters? We always did it that way?

        The US Navy uses the drogue system.

        Any country that has an F-15 or F-16 (or the F-35A) has to use the boom system as that is how they are setup.

        Having the boom allows a commonality of the Allies to cross use tankers.

        I don’t know that A330MRT routinely does any USAF fueling unless its in a specific area both are operating in (it may go on and not published).

        UK can’t fuel their C-17s so have to depend on US or others if they need to.

        Australia is an exception as they operate C-17 and have booms and I suspect regular work with USAF (they certainly had the A330MRT up to Alaska for one of the Red Flag training ops)

        • DOU&TW
          The UK uses a passenger base aircraft, so is unable to use the main deck for freight.If the US makes a split buy, I’m not sure if this would be too much of problem for them.There is discussion about fitting booms to a few of them.
          Everyone is saying that the MRT is a mature product, but that has never stopped the US military tearing a weapons system down, messing it up and vastly inflating the price before.

          • It would be well to list some examples.

            A reality is that communications equipment has to be what is standard and interoperable. NATO is supposed to achieve that but its always an issue on parts and repair/availability that any country has a legit concern with

  27. > Leahy was never one to let a good quip go to waste. Like Mad Max for the 737 MAX 10. <

    In retrospect, not a bad naming from Mr. Leahy..


    Also, naming a product "MAX" seems a tad short-sighted to me: where does one go after using that superlative?

    • @Bill7

      Yup for Max name idiotic – the PR guys call this something like ‘branding’ – it’s compared to AB A33S etc etc that rubs in the difference between the workers and the cowboys

      Like it’s one of those non combat Dead Duck aircarts that BA keeps on making, long as it’s got a great nametag who cares if it don’t fly?

  28. More Bad News

    On shoring is not going to happen

    US, and US business, and Wall Street, have not invested as other countries specifically China (witness Boeing spending R&D money and new plane money on Wall Street) and are now pretty much irreversibly dependent on China and a few other countries, both in general and specifically in industries and products vital to security and health, and even or especially any matériel needed to fight wars, and dependent both as supplier and as end client buyer

    The China market being larger than the US inclines third countries to China by the well known process of self interest

    The Good News

    DoD knows this, as do some at least in the Administration, and they also know that this fact almost entirely prohibits any kind of real (‘kinetic’) war with China (or indeed Russia)

    As we all know BA does it’s bit for Peace by building warcarts which do not not work in war

    But even talkietalkie war is enough to disserve vital US and EU industrial interests – The following link makes the common interest of both Boeing and Airbus quite clear

    • Gerrard:

      I would like you to list the aircraft sans the KC-46 that Boeing builds that do not work.

      Of course the F-15, F18, Chinook, V-22, Apache are long proven and have sold not just to US but around the world.

      While its an embarrassment the KC-46 can fuel aircraft in US and other transition areas freeing up KC-135R for ops forward.

      I seem to recall the A4000 having some serious teething issues as well. Maybe its not as easy as some think.

      That does not detract from Airbus having done an overall good job with the A330MRT. Hats off to them. It too was not without its issues, but those issues were not self inflicted (one boom fall off probably was).

      No more than the A380 wing breaking before it should have. It broke where they predicted, just 3% sooner. I had no issue with a beef up and not re-doing a complicated test for no real reason.

      Boeing problem was not just one bone headed and avoidable mistake, it was a number of them (no idea if Airbus would have handled the separation issue or even if the A330MRT meets those).

      I talked to a Boeing enginner one time (no I will not give their name) who lead a team looking at using Airbus wiring harness. Quality was fine, but they did not have the wiring separated per normal (long time ago) and could not believe something that basic was allowed.

      Again, its a hard field, you just should not make screw ups that you know about already, there are enough unknowns that bite you. Airbus is not immune nor was Boeing it its hey day.

      I for one hope to see Boeing return to solid, I may be foolish in that hope, but it would be good for the world as well as the US.

      • @TW

        Writing out the list of Boeing’s failures would take forever, and for sure other companies also make mistakes

        My point in this comment was that the degradation or the decadence on display by Boeing is continuous and irreversible, is part – both cause and consequence -of the decline of the US industrial base

        The reasons for which are well known and well lamented in posts and comments on this site as across the nation

        There was some hope that this decline might be reversed – a new spirit and so on was promised by the recent change in administration – but this looks unlikely to take, too little too late, it’s long been too late

        Some people discuss IP, it’s theft or it’s ’copying’ – apart from focus on IP being the problem, what is far more significant, and a great national disaster, is the way the US has thrown away the knowledge and practice of the mass making of industrial goods, once the backbone of the country and the prime source of general community, of purpose and wealth

        The loss of this culture or skill set or political economy is done – re learning is impossible – read this link about how difficult and intricate is making a device as apparently simple as a toaster – then it’s easier to see how Boeing as the rest have thrown way their knowledge skills people and history never to know what they have lost

        However they did so not by mistake but on purpose

        The article mentions Boeing, specifically the 787, as a fine example of throwaway (this is actually a Boeing paper)

        • Good comment and links- thank you.
          Eamonn Fingleton on Boeing might
          be of interest, for the blow-by-blow.

          “We didn’t know!” is utter BS: They Knew, and did it anyway.

          • @Bill7

            Thanks for link -Fingleton is very good : pity he’s not writing any more

            His clear minded discussions of the reasons for and the effects of the collapse of industry in the UK especially northern Ireland are easily transposed to the US

            He got Boeing bang to rights long ago

          • @Bryce

            Speaking of the US falling behind, 5G is their industry of choice for this

            Over the other side of the water they say that 5G is the revolution of industry, but Intel has’nt picked up on this, and whatever other ‘national champions’ the US still possesses ditto no

            It is very hard to imagine Boeing installing 5G, or even knowing how what or why


        • Gerrard:

          You did not list a single Boeing military aircraft failure. You should admit you threw out stuff not create a bait and switch.

          Clearly Boeing has had failures on the commercial side and its had serious issues on the military side of the KC-46.

          I don’t absolve or ignore Boeing failures.

          But you should be embarrassed to throw that kind of stuff out.

          Oh, I forgot the P-8 that everyone including German is buying.

          It seems you are just anti Boeing and or anti US.

          Me? I love the Europeans, I admire Airbus. I may disagree with aspects of policy overall we share common morality though all of us fail at one time or another.

          I believe I have fairly characterized the A330MRT.

        • Gerrard:

          In the second article all I see is an assessment of out sourcing and a comparison with Airbus ops.

          Nothing new in corporations doing stupid things and the next CEO reversing it.

          Frankly I call it a swing and a miss on your part trying to arm twist a snake into supporting a view which it does not.

          Boeing has its issues and the 787 was not just outsource vs in source but getting others to carry project costs (at an enormous price in the end)

          Airbus tried to dump stuff as well and wound up with it being taken back.

          It has nothing to do with your claim that Boeing supplies junk military aircraft.

          The A400 despite its horid developmental issues is not junk either (far worse than the KC-46 in my opinion)

          France is still buying C-130s and its possible that a C-17 and C-130 mix is the better strategic mix vs a one in the middle A400.

          Tactically in a contest landing, a C-130 loss is a lot less than an A400 loss.

          All that proves is there is two views to that coin but the A400 is not nor ever will replace the C-130.

          Equally the A400 has been developed into doing what they intended it to. To call it junk or an Airbus disaster is to ignore what the point of it all was and I will not do that.

          • France isn’t going to be buying C-17 and im sure you know why.
            The A400M was a complete new plane from the wheels up including a carbon fiber wing and a new engine where the issues were. The reverse was true for KC-46, very little that wasn’t existing plane. Im sure the KC-46 decisions about the vision system and the boom etc were made when you know who was head of Boeing Defence from 2009 to 2015.

          • @TW

            My comment is about US off shoring of most of the former industrial base, the consequent irreversible decline of the remaining rump, the absolutism and uselessness of the subsequent ‘rentier ‘ compensation claims regarding IP, the apparent attempt towards ‘on shoring’ and reconstruction of infrastructure by the new Administration

            Boeing is a prime example of a corporation that illustrates this decline – it has managed to distinguish and draw particular attention to itself by first the killing of so many people and the failure of their subsequent attempts at cover up; then by building a warplane that cannot combat while producing civilian planes that kill

            Otherwise BA is an ordinary, banal and run of the the mill failure, as per Intel, GE, the car industry, the health industry, the steel industry, the….well you name it, you can make a list

            In this site, and across the US, there are demands and illustrations for/of various initiatives to re shore, re tool, re build supply chains, re invest; to break out from the financialised prison that widely has been blamed for systemic US industrial failure

            Recent examination of the various infrastructure bills under consideration has revealed that the overall role direct supervision and implication of government, as well as the means of procuring project funding, is largely a similar surrender as per usual to private capital and corporation, not the FDR like sweeping federal reconfiguration of the base as otherwise branded

            The word used for this surrender is ‘asset recycling’

            No one is doing down (‘anti’) the US by the act of analysing the nature of US decline, as if to compare BA and AB was to cheer lead national heros : industrial economies rise and fall, now the US then the UK, now China, then…

            Put it this way: it’s just business it’s not personal



            By the way : I do not ‘claim’ that BA supplies the DoD with ‘junk’ – this is what the DoD claims ; I say BA produces non combat combat planes, partly because they do not know any better, partly because ‘they do not want war with China’, but you’re right there’s probably a whole list of reasons why

          • @Bryce

            Great link!

            “In February 2021, the KC-46 had 608 remaining Category II deficiencies, meaning that there are hundreds of workarounds its crew had to memorize and perform if needed. If that sounds like a lot, in mid-2020 there were 730 such deficiencies. To be fair, that was not particularly relevant, as the aircraft had too many Category I deficiencies to operate at any sufficient scale anyway. ”

            I guess the Chinese (and Russian, and…) Air Force have access to these reports and to others similar – they must think the DoD is nuts

            Is this the same DoD that’s talking about war defending Taiwan or whatever island needs defending?

            The CAF must be sending copies over to the Taiwan AF and saying – no… really, this is the best you got, no kidding, send us a photo

        • I think it’s clear that Gerrard’s comment related to the “new Boeing”…not the “old Boeing”.

          The “new Boeing” has given the world the persistent quality issues assiciated with the MAX, 787 and KC-46. Hearkening back to days of former reliability (e.g C-130 or P-8) does nothing to alleviate its present disastrous reputation.

          • @Bryce

            It seems that many look back to the good old days, of BA as of others, and just wish they could come back again

            Is’nt this currently being used, again, as a slogan to rally the troops – ‘America is Back’?

            The point about culture, especially the culture of making industrial things on a large scale, is that when this activity ceases, when the culture is transferred elsewhere, it then never returns

            Is there not a phrase? Time to move on

          • The “C-130” reference was a pre-cafeine typo…it should have been “C-17”.

            However, the C-130 is conveniently an example of Lockheed Martin’s former reliability, in contrast to the ongoing headache of today’s F-35.

            So it’s mainly Boeing in the dunce corner…but it does have some company there.

        • “… if they outsourced too much work, the day would eventually come when there wouldn’t be enough in-house capability to even write the specs.” ~ John Hart-Smith

      • “Of course the F-15, F18, Chinook, V-22, Apache are long proven …”

        Of course all the above were handed-down products from pre-McDonnell’s reverse takeover of Boeing which turned itself into a short-sighted financial focus share repurchase company with a shareholders’ deficit of $18 billion.

  29. Per my post in Bjorn’s article above, and now in the LNA Twitter feed (with reference to a Seattle Times article), it seems that the 777X also has a tendency to do uncommanded nose dives.

    This appears to have become somewhat of a Boeing hallmark.

    • Looks like Tim Clark unsurprisingly is better informed than poster here who treated Clark’s view as negotiation tactics.

        • @Bryce

          More Good News!

          Another plane joins the BA no fly list

          • Pedro:

            Reality is that TC said was Boeing was not telling Emirates what the status was. That is a verbal twist on what is likely going on.

            In the case of the shift to the RR Ultra Trent 900 on the A380, he spewed pure BS. Lying it not too strong a word. That engine never met what he claimed nor could it have (and in fact, trying to push it to match the GP7000 they cause problem and that engine had serious teething issues)

            TC is going to play the game, it does not mean its valid.

            Boeing is not stupid and they will inform Emirates of what they know but won’t speculate. Emirates is an extremely important customer and to think Boeing is going to mess with them is ignorant at best.

            If Boeing has no information from the FAA as to what the concerns are, all they can do is pass on its under consideration and they will now know what to updated Emirate to until they do get that.

            Yes Boeing has caused its own issues, TC has every right to cancel the order without the BS. All he is doing is trying to leverage better terms for when the 777X comes on line or a better deal on 787.

            That is his right. But to spin it into Boeing not keeping them updated on what Boeing knows, no.

            You can of course believe anything TC or anyone else says, I believe in facts.

    • The article says that seventeen production 777-Xs have been produced already, despite the aircraft not being close to certification. That seems like an unusual approach, especially given recent circumstances.

      • @Bill7: Boeing is keeping the line going at a very low rate to keep it and supply chain “warm.”

          • I was surprised as well when I found that found a while back (also Leeham!)

            Dilemma of the 787, fix it after or train wreck the whole build ops.

            Boeing and Airbus commercial are concurrent production with more final products being different than first run.

            Airbus made dramatic changes on the A350 after the first 17.

            If its software or miner aerodynamics back fit in this case works, but you sure do not want a major problem showing up.

            The 747 had wing issues to start that took a major change to correct.
            But it was the only non kludge solution.

  30. Some peoples need to fact-check.

    The CF-6 and JT9 both had sensitivities early in use.

    Boeing was lucky to get first 747s from PAE to BFI for flight test with four still burning and turning, had to add a yoke to reduce distortion of engine. Both prone to surges, Pratt more often but more resistant to damage. Pratt finally had a good engine a few iterations later, IIRC the JT9D-7Q was good and thrusty. (At one point Boeing used water injection which is tough on engines, one flight test takeoff from BFI consumed 6000 pounds during takeoff.) Both engine brands in service on widebody airliners including 747.

    Engines used on KC-135R came after proven on B737-300. A few 707s were retrofitted as well for military and such use, but Boeing avoided retrofit for commercial use. (A few 707s were retrofitted by private companies with JT8D-2xx from DC-9 derivatives for special missions like contract refueling tankers.) OTOH Douglas embraced the CFM-56 on the DC8, the DC8-73 was a very good airplane – quiet, extra thrust, long range, perhaps more used as freighters than for passengers, UPS had some.

    • Almost amusing bit of C-% history was that wing failed at 128% load then revised design failed at 125% (150% required0.

      So aerodynamic load alleviation and operational restrictions were added, until eventual replacement with a better wing design.

      • Argh, “Almost amusing bit of C-% history was that wing failed at 128% load then…” is regarding C-5.

        C-17 wing failed structural test about where you’d guess it might given that complex structure is more difficult to analyze.

  31. As for those who think the A330MRT is magical they should read the following. It took Singapore Air Force 3 yeas to get their A330MRT into full operation.

    If you actually read down, you will see they had boom performance problems they had to resolved. This is on a supposedly fully developed and operational s tanker and fueling system. None of it is easy and stuff happens.

    Boeing is highly public and big news and Airbus flies under the radar often.

  32. KC-46 reached milestones this week for 5,000 missions and 20,000 refueling contacts, delivering 20M lbs of fuel. Half the missions conducted in 2021 alone as KC-46 entered limited service. 1,000 missions in support of joint training activities around the world.

    As confidence is built in the KC-46, the USAF will use it as much as possible in limited service until the new advanced vision system is ready.

  33. Polaris (A310 MRTT) was based on converted commercial A310 airframes. Production of the type ceased in 1998. The existing fleet will be fairly old by now and probably are nearing the end of their cyclic life A330 MRTT, similarly, are also based on commercial A330 airframes, but the crucial difference is that the type is still in production, and you can still buy them.

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