By Scott Hamilton
Jan. 31, 2022, © Leeham News: A third company will offer a tanker to the US Air Force when the KC-Y Request for Proposal is issued this year.
Kansas Modification Center (KMC) and the National Institute for Aviation Research (NIAR) will propose converting used Boeing 777-300ERs to tankers. Jim Gibbs, president and CEO of KMC, already submitted information to the Air Force in response to last year’s Request for Information.
Gibbs, in an interview with LNA, said that the concept is to offer the Air Force a tanker not for front-line combat zones, but along the lines of the conversions used by Omega Air. Omega provides non-combat air refueling service for the US Navy, Air Force, and some NATO countries. It operates after-market conversions of the Boeing 707 and McDonnell Douglas DC-10. IAI Bedek also undertook after-market tanker conversions of the 707 and Boeing 767. The UK's Royal Air Force converted Vickers VC-10s and Lockheed L-1011s to tankers.
Gibbs said the KMC and NIAR chose the 777-300ER over the 777-200ER or LR as the better platform, in their view.
“The 777, especially the -300, makes an enormous amount of sense right now. It's a modern aircraft, very low time, the aircraft itself can haul about 200,000 pounds on a structural payload with very minor modifications to it,” Gibbs said. “You can take that aircraft, add some existing capabilities on it, such as the existing boom of KC-135, and simplify the fuel offload process. I think you would have a very capable tanker. If you have a mission radius of 3,000 miles, a 777 can still offload 150,000 pounds of fuel.
“The -300ER has a higher gross weight than anything, with the exception of the -200LR. If you look at the available aircraft for conversion and the available feedstock on it, the LR and the type of aircraft available for that are very minimal compared to the -300ER feedstock. The -300 is a bigger aircraft, it shares the same wing box and a lot of structure with the -200, or most of the structure, besides the plugs. We need to inject 100 tankers into the fleet. There's not that many -200LRs out there,” Gibbs said.