Pontifications: Advice for Boeing in the coming KC-Y campaign

Part 6: The KC-X competition from Boeing’s perspective

By Scott Hamilton

Feb 21, 2022, © Leeham News: Jim Albaugh, the former president and CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes and of Boeing’s defense unit, retired from the company in 2012. He oversaw the first competitive bid at the defense unit for the US Air Force KC-X refueling tanker. That was lost to Northrop Grumman-EADS (Airbus) in 2009.

As CEO of BCA, he oversaw commercial efforts to get Boeing’s cost down on the 767-200ER, which formed the basis for what became the KC-46A tanker. Defense won this round against a solo EADS bid. Boeing’s winning price was about 10% below the EADS bid for its A330-based MRTT.

Years removed from Boeing but nevertheless an interested observer with experience on the losing and winning bids, Albaugh has some observations and advice as Boeing prepared to compete against Lockheed Martin-Airbus for the KC-Y campaign that already has unofficially begun.

Facing Lockheed Martin

Jim Albaugh. Photo credit: Boeing.

Lockheed Martin (LMCO) is the prime contractor against which Boeing will compete. Airbus is the sub-contractor, as it was in the Northrop Grumman-Boeing KC-X campaign. But the LMCO airplane is once again the Airbus A330 MRTT, which will be further modified to USAF specifications. Already, Boeing partisans attacked Airbus for the old illegal subsidies campaign that was the focus of the two KC-X rounds. It’s as if LMCO isn’t a party.

Albaugh knows better.

“I have great respect for Lockheed. I have great respect for Airbus. Lockheed is the number one defense contractor in the world. Airbus builds good airplanes. Boeing has a lot of experience and a lot of scar tissue, but a lot of knowledge as a result of what they’ve just been through. I’m sure it’ll be a spirited competition and I certainly hope Boeing wins it,” Albaugh said.

Albaugh shrugs off the early attacks on Airbus’ government launch aid that supported the funding of the A330. The structure of the aid was found to be illegal by the World Trade Organization, though not the principal of the aid. Airbus has long since repaid the A330 funding. Under WTO rules, launch aid isn’t applicable to military programs.

Revisiting the subsidies

Nevertheless, people like Loren Thompson, a former State Senator from Kansas and a former Congressional aide are playing the subsidy card again. Does Albaugh think that even though the Pentagon won’t be looking at that and by WTO rules, it’s irrelevant, that playing the subsidy card again is a good idea, a bad idea, or a worn-out idea?

“Nothing in life is totally fair. Competing against a subsidized airplane makes it difficult. At the end of the day, it’s how you’d respond to the RFP and how they score your paper. I think Boeing understands that,” he said.

Boeing KC-46 has had a lot of delays with the KC-46A and it’s written off some $5bn. They’ve had some technical issues; they’ve had a lot of Category One issues with the airplane, the most severe of deficiencies under the USAF rankings. How important are these going to be to the risk factor, or will Boeing have all that sorted out by the time that the RFP is issued this year?

Past performance factors in, Albaugh acknowledged. “At the same time, Boeing’s got a lot of experience, and I think that’ll be factored in as well. I’m not sure. I think it depends on how the RFP reads.”

Advice for Boeing

Albaugh advises Boeing to proceed with the competition as it approached things in the past.

“One, have a very good red team that is looking very hard at what a Lockheed and Airbus are going to propose. At the same time, look very, very hard at the lessons learned on the KC-46, put together a very dedicated team to work this and be realistic about the risks that are inherent in this program and put an aggressive bid in, but one that is executable,” he said.

Sean O’Keefe, who headed EADS Americas during the KC-X campaigns, said Boeing’s advantage is its incumbency. Incumbency is also its disadvantage. O’Keefe, who earlier in his career, headed NASA and worked for a Senator on The Hill, is well versed in federal procurements. So is Albaugh, who spent much of his career as a supplier to the Pentagon.

Albaugh agrees.

“Incumbency can be a blessing and a curse. It’s a blessing in that you really understand the risks. It’s a curse and that you really understand the risks. Sometimes you can become a little too cautious because you do understand the risk going forward. I don’t think Boeing wants to have write-downs on any future anchor competition, so I think they will bid this thing through clear glasses.

“For Lockheed and Airbus, it’s probably not so clear glasses because they’ve never done it before. I need to read the RFP before I could tell you anymore,” he said.

Larger airplane

The USAF has issued a Request for Information, but the RFP comes out later this year. Albaugh doesn’t know what’s going to be in the RFP.

“I know it’s a larger airplane, but I think that Boeing has a lot of different airframes that they could propose. They’ve got a lot of experience. I really don’t know enough about it to be able to say what the advantages and disadvantages are.” Boeing, he said, could offer a tanker based on the larger 767-300ER or even the 777-200LRF. While there would be non-recurring costs to develop such a plane and these would be paper airplanes against the LMCO-Airbus MRTT, Boeing once before floated a 777-based tanker concept.

Albaugh said Lockheed certainly has a lot of institutional knowledge with the USAF and Pentagon. “That’s going to be something I’m sure they’ll play on. At the same time, a teaming arrangement with a different company can be cumbersome at best sometimes how they put together that team, do they book profit on profit, the financial structure they put together, all that’s going to be an interesting thing to watch.”

Albaugh predicted Airbus will emphasize the tanker will be assembled in the US. Actually, as a subcontractor, LMCO will take the lead on this—and it already has. Lockheed has a web page dedicated to the Americanization of the LMXT, its name for the MRTT.

Wishing Boeing the best

“I wish the best for Boeing. I always said I hated to lose, but if you do lose, you have to take some comfort in that the customer is getting a better solution, a better product. I hope that Boeing can put together the best solution and the better product,” Albaugh said.

Coming up: An interview with Boeing.  Lockheed Martin was interviewed here.

87 Comments on “Pontifications: Advice for Boeing in the coming KC-Y campaign

  1. Jim Albaugh has an awesome track record & his loyalty to his former employer is above any doubt. And he seems a nice reasonable guy too. But also realistic.

    I think there’s a background fight going on to convince the USAF and even more congress, they don’t need more than KC46 capabilities. while operational, real world requirements point in the other direction.

    Can’t Boeing/ GE get serious workshare in a GENX powered LMCO? Airbus gives in some, but still a US aerospace win-win-win & USAF gets the best platform?

    • That’s the KC-Z program which has been mentioned in previous articles.

      As I recall it will be an unmanned stealth platform for scenarios where airspace remains contested. KC-X and-Y are more direct and relatively low cost replacements for current platforms.

      You don’t need $$$ stealth to get your assets across the pond, but you might once you get those assets into the theatre.

      • Maybe flying gas stations should be stealth, VTOL and electrical powered too.. $2B a ship?

        A lot of fear mongering, flag waving and Hollywood required to make tax payers believe that’s essential. Aren’t there stealth tanker drones for assets into the theatre?

        • no, there are not (at least none publicly acknowledged)

          the drone tanker for the navy is not stealthy (the base aircraft has stealth shaping, but the very unstealthy refuelling pod bolted to the bottom of it largely negates that) and is drogue only (so only navy fighters can refuel from it)

          • The F35 also isn’t “stealthy” when carrying any external missiles or fuel tanks.

          • @bryce

            and your point is???

            as I said there are no (at least publicly acknowledged) existing stealthy refueling aircraft.

          • It’s not going to be impossible to integrate a refuelling hose in the rear of an aircraft or drone such that it is stealthy except from the tail aspect when the drogue is extended.

        • There is no such thing as true stealth, its a complex subject but boiled down to simple terms, its radar cross section.

          F-22 and F-35 (sans exterior stores) can get within 10 miles or so of an S-400 Radar system before it shows up.

          With stores, it increases but the overall is not as large as say an F-15.

          An MQ-25 would have a lower signature than either a KC-46A or a A330MRT.

          An F-35 could carry drop tanks and drop them off before it showed up on Radar.

          Or given an engagement, it could allow Radar to pain it and when the missile is on its way, dump the tanks and change location (Radar has to be turned on to work and then is targeted)

          You still have to get the missile close enough to pick up the target and a LRO target is an issue for that.

          So far the attacker has broken down the IADS and Israel continues to do that on a regular basis.

          While most of the Syrian systems are not up to date, the Pantair is and its been destroyed a number of times by exactly the type of Anti Radar missile its supposed to deal with.

    • Meanwhile Aviation Week is carrying an article about the USAF doing trials with a B52 taking fuel from a Singaporean A330MRTT, “as part of a broad U.S.-partner push to expand the ability of aircraft to receive fuel from tankers of international operators.”.

      So in the real world, the USAF is making sure it’s interoperable with the MRTT. Cooperation amonst allies is fundamentally good regardless of the capaciousness and reach of one’s own capability.

      However, it also means that individual officers might get used to operating with the MRTT, which could impact operational planning through personal preferences. If they know they can pick up the phone and ask the Brits / Singaporeans / Aussies / whomever to lay on fuel instead and get more of it per tanker, and they decide they need that extra capacity, the KC-46As could be prone to being under-used.

      It’ll be interesting to see if the USAF / allied forces allow operational COs to make such “buying power” decisions down at their level. If COs vote with their feet and ask for service from an MRTT, well that’d be embarassing for the KC-46. If the USAF has to issue an order to use the KC-46, well that’d be embarassing too. However, if they ask for the KC-46, then that would demonstrate that the KC-46 is indeed all they ever needed.

      That’d be a far better assessment mechanism than any kind of selection panel assessing bids. Create a market, and let the market decide!

  2. If the mission is China and how close and how long the tanker stay in that refueling zone one would think that a stealth tanker staying much closer to the stealth fighters/bombers would be a priority. Like making a tanker of the B-21 instead of risking mix up with commercial airlines looking the same from a distance.

    • Its a newer issue with longer range missiles that are so called tanker killers

      One of the USAF specs not public has to do with missile defenses.

      The F-35 has a issue in that its a compromised fuselage aerodynamically (not radar) wise and its got shorter legs than it would otherwise.

      They are working on two different engine types to extend that. Simplest would be the PW upgraded engine.

      • Yes, either stealth or missile protection to stay on the “right side Guam”. Regarding F-35 engine. It would perform better with more thrust and lower fuel consumption at supersonic speeds.
        Which engine is the best needs a fly-off on the -A, -B and -C versions with 1ea overhaul in between at 1500-2500 cycles for 7-12 aircraft of each version to get good statistical data on performance and cost. Little chance it will happen in Peace time full of politics…

    • I just read the RFI top to bottom, there is literally nothing in it that even suggests the LMXT is a better fit.

      it asks a bunch of questions, some of which the LMXT, in theory, has better answers for than the KC-46 (primarily automated refueling) and likewise some of those questions the KC-46 has better answers for (cargo, EW systems, US NVG compatibility, EMP hardening)

      it asks for a pounds of fuel for offload at what range table (which presumably would be in the LMXT’s favor) but does not specify or even suggest a minimum requirement.

      it asks “can it be modified to haul more fuel, and what are the tradeoffs” which I assume both companies can do…

      • Go back and take a good look at 3.2.1, 3.2.2, 3.2.3, 3.2.6, 3.3.1, 3.3.3, 3.3.4, 3.3.5, 3.3.7…for example.

        • you have not identified anything I didn’t above and called out a few that actually hurt your argument.

          3.2.1 and 3.2.2 have absolutely no benefit for either
          3.2.3 is the fuel offload graph, which i mentioned
          3.2.6 is a boeing advantage (cargo door, palletized cargo, standard pallets, A330F (and so MRTT) needs reduced height pallets)
          3.3.1 is RVS limitations, which, since the MRTT has not been tested to the degree that the KC-46 has by US evaluators, we don’t know if it has the same issues or not.
          3.3.3 is boom strike mitigation, we have no public data regarding relative boom strike rates between MRTT and KC-135. we do though for KC-46 which is documented to be no worse than KC-135, when it was supposed to be half the rate. open question as to MRTT rates.
          3.3.4 – what makes you think the MRTT can do this and the KC-46 can not? or that the MRTT can do it better?
          3.3.5 KC-46 already can refuel F-35, A-10 fix is in the works (and due to a government error, not a boeing one) V-22 would have a tough time keeping up with either an MRTT or KC-46, but they would be equal on that one. the second half is about capabilities of the hardpoints the drogue pods mount to, what makes you think MRTT is better here?
          3.3.7 I agree – MRTT has demonstrated automated refueling and KC-46 has not.

          • You seem to be unaware of the fact that the KC-46 boom has a nasty habit of striking the aircraft that it’s refuelling, causing serious scratching. It’s a boom stiffness issue. The problem is so bad that refuelling of stealth aircraft is “only in emergencies”. The link contains an informative video. No A330MRRT user is complaining of such issues.

            https://www.thedrive.com/the-war-zone/31724/watch-the-boom-on-boeings-troubled-kc-46-tanker-smack-into-an-f-15e

            Apart from that, the A330MRTT has more customers than the KC46…the USAF seems to find that interesting…one can only wonder why.

          • bilbo:

            While I agree in general, the F-35 that a KC-46A can fuel are the B and C models, the A needs a boom fill and that is an vision issue still not resolved.

            In an emergency it can, but not routinely.

          • @bryce -yes, I am aware of “the boom strike issue”, if you read my post above you would know that, and know that in fact it has boom strikes at about the same rate as the KC-135. the problem is that it was supposed to be half the KC-135. yes, this is a problem. guess what, it is being fixed.

            the video of the boom strike on the F-15 is nothing at all unusual in the world of air refueling, look at any photo of the area around the boom receptacle on any boom refueling capable aircraft and you will see lots of dings.

            for instance: https://www.businessinsider.com/damage-to-a10-warthog-nose-by-refueling-tanker-flying-boom-2020-2

            https://i.stack.imgur.com/kpmwY.jpg

            as recently as 2019, 8 years after service entry, the MRTT had to have its boom FBW software updated in order to be certified to work with F-15s due to risk of canopy strikes during refueling. the certification further restricts the weapons loadout of the F-15 such that in order to be refueled by an MRTT two weapons stations must not have weapons on them.

            https://www.defensenews.com/air/2019/10/22/has-airbus-fixed-midair-refueling-problems-with-the-f-15-jet/

            as to the number of customers, MRTT has got 8 customers since 2004 (NATO owned aircraft paid for by different countries don’t count as separate customers as the selection was by NATO), total of 51 in service and only 15 more on order, and only about half of those in service even have a boom. it took 6 years from order to first flight (2004-2010). it had significant trouble early on with its boom falling off.

            as of today, the KC-46 has 5 customers since 2014 and has more aircraft in service (56) and ~130 more on order in 10 fewer years.

          • @ bilbo
            3.3.5 stipulates “ARE currently qualified”– not “WILL hopefully be qualified after issues are fixed”. Similarly. 3.3.1, 3.3.3 and 3.3.4 use *present tense* — not *conditional future tense*.

            3.2.1 asks about the number of *operators* — not the number of *frames*. At present, the KC-46A has only 2 operators (US and Japan); Israel’s first KC-46A has yet to be delivered.

          • Nice way to count costumers but the aircraft has then still 9 operators and C-46 just 2. Israel has some on its gift list but not delivered.

            A330 boom has some minor issues with F-15.

            Yes, C-46 because refueling is no business right no. So there are zero operational KC-46 after how many years?

    • Bryce…..
      If you look at the mission. The KC46 when deployed to the Pacific is in a range vs offload swap. All airplanes are, but bigger airplanes do a better job on longer hauls. I try not ro read too much into the RFI, because its a fact finding mission, BUT it sure looks like they are thinking about the KC-10 capabilities they will lose soon and how to plug that gap in the Pacific. I don’t think its so much about longing for something different than a 46, it looks to me to be that the mission is different enough to ask real pointy questions…..

      • If there would be 300 777-200LR’s around and an overhaul/ modification line could be created doing 15 per year for the next 10 years it could work. But there are only 60 & Boeing is moving over to 777x.

        • Well, then, they can do the 777-200ER instead…there were 422 of those built.
          Better still, the -300ER…more than 800 of those around.

          • Looks like in your link, KMC/NIAR have already chosen the 777-300ER as the platform. Presumably for the reason you noted – way more airframes available, particularly once the 777-8/9 are certified and flying.
            The challenges I see with the KMC/NIAR offering are a) delivering a military-grade proposal, which can match up with the 2 titans of US defense contracting, and b) if they win, executing and delivering. KMC/NIAR will need a top notch team, with much military contracting experience, to deliver. They may have the upper hand in using a very proven airframe like the 777-300ER – very solid and reliable aircraft.
            Best of luck to the KMC/NIAR team! I am really hoping they give the other 2 teams some excellent competition in this round!!

          • “A 777T is not an in production tanker.”

            Neither is the KC-46A. Since it won’t function properly for another 4 years, in essence it’s actually still a prototype.

          • “Air Force leaders have asserted the service will not declare the KC-46 operational until all its critical technical deficiencies are resolved. The program currently has six category 1 deficiencies on the books. Those issues impose a risk to either safety or operations.”

            As we now know, at least one of the Cat 1 deficiencies won’t be resolved until 2026.
            If the plane isn’t “operational”, then it’s a prototype.

            https://www.defensenews.com/industry/2021/08/09/boeings-kc-46-can-now-use-its-refueling-boom-for-operational-missions/

        • keesje:

          Boeing is building both 777F and the 777X.

          I don’t see the 777 F going away any time soon.

    • Boeing can’t offer a 777-X because still not certified yet but Airbus could offer an A330neo. Why shouldn’t Airbus offer an A350F?

      Check out price tag for a 777-classic. Boeing last time offered the 767 10 % cheaper than Airbus its A330. How much more expensive would be a KC-777 than a KC-A330neo?

      Does anyone have the fuel burn rates for A330neo and 777F at hand?

      • “Does anyone have the fuel burn rates for A330neo and 777F at hand?”

        777F as reference, napkin physics:

        348 t – 145t – 102t = 101t fuel
        -10% available 90.9t
        4970nm @ 482knts = 10.3 hours
        average 8.8t/h over the first 10 hours.

        Afair A330 is ~~ 2/3 of that.

      • A332 5287 kg/hr
        A339 4779 kg/hr
        772F 6800kg/hr

        Of course for a tanker payload-range is essential.

      • The 777-8F, and The 777-9 will be certified fairly soon. But I ascertain from what you have said, that is not good enough. That’s a shame. Lots of new technology there.

        • Define “fairly soon”.
          Still no sign of a TIA.
          EASA has reservations about certifying as a derivative.

        • According to the RFI the 777-8F should be a no go.
          3.2 General Capabilities:
          3.2.1 […] What companies are currently flying/operating this aircraft(s) as a refueling aircraft? What (if any) additional development does this aircraft(s) require?
          3.2.2 What stage of “new” development is your candidate aircraft(s) at today? What is the current technology readiness level(s) for any new systems/technologies, and how much development do you anticipate is required in order for these systems/technologies to be made fully operational?

          It is also mentioned that “The Commercial Derivative Aircraft must be operational by 2029.” Not the commercial aircraft itself, the whole tanker!

          KC-X A330MRTT offered about 20 % more for about 10 % higher price. (We know today KC-46’s costs for US taxpayers are higher – $5 billion)How much more expensive is a 777F compared to an A330F?

          777-200F also will be out of production soon. Not so A330neo.

          • Ok. That settles that. Government contracting. If something’s going to be in service for 40 years, one would think that they would want the absolute latest and greatest. Those would be the Airbuses 330-800 and 350F; and the Boeing 777X and the 787. I guess the B707 really made a lasting impression on The Air Force. I’m hip to a proven airframe, but cost wise maintaining those 707s after 20 years must have been astronomical.

          • Sam1 . The USAF did get the latest for the KC-46…..refueling side that is. The boom and drogue hardware were brand new technology. The remote vision system was supposed to be that too , well it will be in the final version Boeing’s contractors are working on.
            The airframe and engines date back to the 767-200 and the mid 80s. The air frieght industry is buying new build 767F today and that like KC-46 is prefectly fine for the job over next 40 yrs

          • I would think the KC-46 will be a successful addition over time. The larger airframe, if needed, I thought should concentrate on those newer airplanes. I still don’t know if they plan on keeping the KC-10 indefinitely. If that be the case, the USAF will be possibly maintaining FOUR tankers. Granted the KC-135s are being replaced, but it’s over a fair amount of time.

          • The KC-10 are nearly through with their airframe lifetime because they did a lot of airlift. Due to this experience USAF wanted a good freighter with capability for refueling.

            USAF dislikes to deliver parcels and troops with its C-17. Why use a C-17 and a tanker when a tanker (KC-10) could do the job on its own.

            With the same payload an A330 can fly about 1,000 nm further than an 767. Hawaii to Guam is about 4,000 nm.

          • Kind of interesting, that the KC-10s could be gone before the last KC-135s.

  3. Boeing will always, play whatever cards, they can to win.. Either above board or UNDERHAND. Most Americans will stand behind any anti-American reteric.
    But time has proved that they have put profit and reputation above competency and ability to deliver good airframes.

  4. Looks like in your link, KMC/NIAR have already chosen the 777-300ER as the platform. Presumably for the reason you noted – way more airframes available, particularly once the 777-8/9 are certified and flying.
    The challenges I see with the KMC/NIAR offering are a) delivering a military-grade proposal, which can match up with the 2 titans of US defense contracting, and b) if they win, executing and delivering. KMC/NIAR will need a top notch team, with much military contracting experience, to deliver. They may have the upper hand in using a very proven airframe like the 777-300ER – very solid and reliable aircraft.
    Best of luck to the KMC/NIAR team! I am really hoping they give the other 2 teams some excellent competition in this round!!

  5. You can’t ignore the 777T cost issues (assuming you ignore the other knock out issues)

    It flips the relative differences in reverse, the A330MRT then becomes the lower cost air frame.

    As JA said, we need to see what the RFP says.

    The RFI is looking for a lot of possibilities but as was noted above, some would be in A330MRT court and some in KC-46A.

    So, while the A330MRT has the advantage out at max radius (3000 miles), that depends on the credit for that vs the deficits (main cargo deck and door of the KC-46A)

    While it is alluded to, we don’t know how much battle field management the KC-46A has, let alone what credit there is for that.

    We do know it has a significant self defense suite (Airbus is adding that in bits and pieces as an option on the A330MRT, but we don’t know how it compares let alone credits there)

    And yes, it always will be political just the same as the US not being invited to the European fighter programs. Shrug.

    However, once the RFP is published, then its a honest competition unlike many in the world.

  6. What is the Leeham fascination on this subject all about? That is about 500 articles on it in the last 6 months

    • Judging by the number of comments that each tanker article generates, it is clear that Scott knows his readers!

      • A bit like the A380 Saga, though that was a whole (or close) to a different slate of commentators, who were wrong about the prospects.

        • And now we have a similar saga with the 777X.
          Never a dull moment in the aviation world…😎

          • No comparison.
            Anti A380 commentary was like massive organized jihad. ( mostly to shadow Boeing’s 787 woes? )

            777X discussion is doninated by “watching from the sidelines”. language used isn’t really Klingon .-)

      • The number of air frames make it a major aspect of A and B sales so its certainly legitimate though it does cross into the defense world which Leeham is not involved in. Like China how do you talk abut aircraft sales when its completely intermingled with the China issues? You can’t so you wind up with a elephant in the room discussion that is a much or more about that end than B vs A.

        • Plus: re-winning the tanker contest is of potentially existential significance to (battered and bruised) BA.

          Moreover, it has all the elements of an Agatha Christie novel: suspense, manipulation, subterfuge, ineptitude, shady characters…never a dull moment.

    • A lot of suppliers and contractors involved. Its huge business and its history.

  7. Its fun to watch the hollering when the RFP has not been released yet, and may not be.

    This gets into an interesting aspect of the procurement process.

    Its an extension of the original KC-135R replacement which lined out 3 phases.

    Its a possible substantial change to the approved by congress funding. An A330MRT could easily bust the numbers they want.

    I have seen the use of the contract extension clause but that is for the same bid equipment (ie buy more KC-46A at the same price or better if you can negotiate it) mfg can offer improved but it has to be at the same price.

    So, does congress buy into it or do they step in as a major change (if Boeing wins no, if LMXT does, Katey Bar the Door (US for, it could be really interesting)

    Airbus does not begin to have the political clout Boeing does. The Sr. Senator from Alabama is no more. Two very junior senators. So you have a lot of states with clout against one.

    And can the USAF just disallow the bid after they see what they got?

    What the GAO does or can do?

    And Boeing has legal recourse, it can take it all to court though its rarely done.

    Timelines are strange in that the RFI assumes the KC-Y is available in 2029 and there is no lag in deliveries.

    But the USAF is retiring KC-135R now. Nothing says that Airbus and LM can get their act together to do it by 2029 and there is a gap regardless.

    And if the USAF does not see aspects of the RFI from Airbus that show it can deliver on a timeline, they can delay or even cancel the RFP. RFI is in no way any obligation.

    Boeing clearly would have the vision issues corrected by 2025 let alone 2029.

    Clearing up or presenting the real and various possibilities would be a help vs the old history because one way or the other its not the same situation this time.

    That is where this falls totally in the military procurement system and not a civilian airline offering.

    • Lockheed is the prime contractor , not Airbus
      Lockheed gets what it wants when it come to these things. Always has

      Final assembly in Mobile Al is not a lot of value added. Different story when it goes to Georgia for militarisation. May even be found to make more sense to do final assembly in Georgia in Lockheeds plant instead

      • Final assembly in the US really makes no sense for the American people. Its going to to cost a lot of time and money for very few jobs and technology gain. The UK now buys its Apaches, chinooks, and posidons of the shelf for this reason.
        In the event of 50 MRTTS being required, would it make sense to convert 2nd hand?

        • Yes, but the symbolism of the whole circus is very important to certain politicians.
          The US imports about $50 billion worth of goods from China every MONTH, but it couldn’t possible be seen to import some tankers from the EU 😉 Amusing, isn’t it?
          Just choosing US made engines and then flying assembled frames over to LM to fit out the USAF-specific aspects would also benefit the US economy…but not enough to assuage the circus managers.

        • It makes sense from a military point of view. There is not chance the US will be embargoed of parts nor that an Airbus supplier in Europe destroyed by a precision cruise missile.

          • Airbus is the Dog wagging the LM tail.

            While I am for the A330MRT, its still Boeing turf.

            While LM is huge in defense, this is not going to be an all US project nor does LM have the network of states involved in this (nor other companies ) like they do on the F-35.

            The real discussion starts when the RFP is released and analyzed.

          • Quite a lot of the 767 is made in Japan anyway. So Boeing can wave the flag but airframer *com gives these results
            Kawasaki – fuselage forward and centre
            Korean Aerospace- body sections
            Aerotech Korea – skins aft fuselage
            Alenia – fin and radomes
            Mitsubishi – fuselage aft section , doors
            Hindustan – large cargo door
            GKN – winglets
            Malaysia – engine struts

            Having final assembly in US is certainly preferable for political reasons and its suits the Airbus method anyway with their air delivery of large airframe sections to FAL.

      • Perhaps Lockheed-Martin will re-enter the commercial airliner field in some way after building a big plane like this again.

        • Err. It’s not building any planes. Airbus is doing the final assembly in it’s normal way from mostly flown in major assemblies at it’s Mobile plant. Maybe space issues could see a FAL done at LM Marietta site – but by Airbus- where assembly halls could be used.

  8. Mr Albaugh & Mr Hamilton,

    Who actually owns the RVS?
    Boeing holds the patents and has paid for the entirety of the 2.0 development.

    Per Defense News:
    “Under the terms of Boeing’s fixed-price firm contract and previous agreements with the service, the company will be financially responsible for paying for the entirety of the [RVS] redesign effort.”

    Should LMCO win, will they also have to design their own RVS ‘on their own dime’ or will Boeing be forced to hand it over? Would the taxpayer be forced, once again, to reinvent the wheel.

    Thank you,
    James Corley

    • Airbus has its own “RVS” on the MRTT, which will be used on the LMXT

      • https://www.kappa-optronics.com/en/aviation/in-flight-refueling-vision-systems
        quote:
        The vision system consists of logically separated subsystems. The main system provides a 3D view of the tank boom contact area with two separate optical channels, each full HD. This view is the operator’s main tool, the central video management unit superimposes displays of all relevant data of the tank operation here. A second system provides a panoramic view composed of image data from 3 cameras with 240°-330° viewing angles, ensuring overview of all operations in 24/7 operation with vision systems for day/night vision and covert operations. Another pair of cameras, with pan, tilt and zoom capabilities, tracks tank operations at the drogues. The systems are partially redundant with each other, ensuring safe operations even in the event of a failure.

        probably not enough by far for the US feature demand ?

        • There are no ‘demands’ currently. Once they are made clearer and the remote vision area has come a long way in last decade or so, development could follow.
          For both builders with actual planes flying any upgrades can be demonstrated easily enough by the date of EIS required

      • The RFI for the bridge tanker even asks specific questions about automatic refueling, so the USAF evidently finds this feature interesting.

        • Yes, the USAF is very interested in automatic refueling … it’s the goal for the KC-Z (an unmanned platform in theory)

          I doubt the MRTT RVS will meet the current USAF requirements, as it wasn’t designed to USAF specs for stealth refueling ops, thus significant $$ will again be required.

          Will LMCO/AB foot the bill or will we?

          • “Will LMCO/AB foot the bill or will we?”

            One way or another, the American taxpayer is already footing the bill for the RVS revisions on the KC-46A (which are being payed for by the USAF — against the advice of the GAO).

            Regarding the rest of your comment: other air forces use the A330 MRTT for their “stealth refueling ops”, so not sure how you think that this won’t be good enough for the USAF — which is currently stuck with a total lemon of an RVS.

          • The USAF asked for current status and offerings, back to the points previously made, there are some the KC-46A has a major leg up on and some the A330MRT would

            But, it all comes down to the RFP and how its written.

            The issue continues to be, if certain features are required that the KC-46A does not have and can’t supply, its an auto out. Fuel carry at longer ranges is one of those.

            Or is the USAF willing to sacrifice cargo space for a larger Battle Management center?

            Boeing could probably get another 5000 lbs of fuel, not likely the to end of 30,000 lbs.

            And how is that rated in the RFP?

            How is the main deck cargo and large cargo door rated?

          • JDC:

            The A330MRT is cleared to fuel all Aircraft in the inventory, which include F-35 and F-22.

            And automated is a where do you stand not a given its in the RFP as are all the RFI questions.

        • “The RFI for the bridge tanker even asks specific questions about automatic refueling, so the USAF evidently finds this feature interesting.”

          Having read the RFI, they find everything interesting.

          That does not mean anything until the RFP comes out and what they are willing to pay for and how much (its either a credit or a specification).

          If its a credit they are willing to sacrifice it for other offsets.

          You can look at the T leaves all you want, its what happens with the RFP that counts.

    • “Boeing holds the patents and has paid for the entirety of the 2.0 development.”

      Do they?

  9. No one else has trouble with hose and drogue systems, but somehow Boeing and the USAF managed to along with all the other problems.
    Is this something they are doing with the specs and processes, or are they just more particular?

    • IMU: drogue pod isues on the IT and JP tankers was due to initally using the “slow” Cobham pod ( hmm: C130 derived ) vs the Cobham one better fitted to higher speeds: ( A310, A330 … )

      Then the 767 shew problems with flutter. can’t remember if this was linked (pod selection) or an unlinked problem

      No idea why the KC46 should have issues in that domain.
      ( it is a 767 wing? did they port the flutter fixes?)

  10. Suppose Boeing wins this contract…..
    What are the odds that it will execute in such a way to make any money on it?
    Is Vegas taking money on this?
    I would say 3:1 sounds about right.

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