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Air Tankers

bug2 - 11-9-2017 at 02:15 PM

MSPO 2017: IAI Offers Poland MMTT-Class Aircraft

At MSPO 2017, Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI)-Bedek confirmed that it has answered Poland’s RFI (Request for Information) regarding a MMTT (Multi-Mission Tanker/Transport)-class aircraft, which Warsaw wants to procure for the Polish Air Force.

IAI-Bedek confirmed that it has offered Poland a conversion of a standard Boeing B767-300ER into a modern MMTT-class aircraft which is configured simultaneously for air refuelling operation, cargo transport, VIP/passengers transport and ISR duties. As IAI-Bedek said, an upgraded aircraft includes a special cargo door and built-in cargo pallet capabilities. Passenger seats and consoles can be easily installed or removed when needed. Due to its versatility, IAI calls its aircraft a ‘smart tanker’. According to the company, configuration change can be made in 2-3 hours. The maximum range of the aircraft is 11,000 kilometres. In operational configuration the range is smaller – for a transport variant (200 soldiers with full equipment) the range is reported to be close to 8,000 kilometres, while for a fuel variant (35 tons of fuel) it is 3,600 kilometres. For a cargo variant (36t ), the reported range is 5,400 kilometres.

For air-to-air refuelling, an aircraft can be equipped with one point flying boom, two points hose and drogue three points hose, and drogue or three points combi-hose and drogue with a flying boom. The final options depend on Polish requirements, IAI’s official told Mil-Tech during MSPO 2017. For air-to-air operations, IAI’s aircraft is equipped with the fly-by-wire solution.

An important element of IAI-Bedek’s offer is the fact, stated by the company’s official, that a standard B767-300ER is not only converted but also refurbished, which means that its service life is reset. This means that a MMTT aircraft based on even an old B767-300ER can serve in operational service for at least 30 years.

Robert Czulda

bug2 - 27-9-2017 at 02:33 PM

Germany, Norway sign for five A330 tankers

26 September, 2017 SOURCE: BY: Craig Hoyle London

Germany and Norway have formally added a further five Airbus Defence & Space A330 multirole tanker transports to a multinational programme launched earlier this year by Luxembourg and the Netherlands.

Airbus on 29 September announced its receipt of a firm order from Europe's OCCAR defence procurement agency for the additional aircraft, which will increase the partner nations' pooled fleet of the type to seven units. "All seven are expected to be handed over between 2020 and 2022," the company says.

Signed in Bonn, Germany, as a contractual amendment to the previous two-nation commitment, the new arrangement includes the provision of an initial two-year support package. "It also includes four additional options, to enable other nations to join the grouping," says Airbus.

"The aircraft will be configured for in-flight refuelling, the transport of passengers and cargo, and medical evacuation flights," the airframer says.

Airbus Defence & Space

The European/NATO multinational multirole tanker transport fleet (MMF) is the result of a European Defence Agency programme initiated in 2012.

Airbus Defence & Space's head of military aircraft, Fernando Alonso, describes the MMF construct as “one of Europe’s most important collaborative programmes, and a model for the future European defence projects which are expected to be launched in the coming years”.

Germany's air force currently operates four A310 tankers and a single transport – which Flight Fleets Analyzer records as aged between 28 and 30 years, while Norway lacks its own in-flight refuelling capability.

bug2 - 14-11-2017 at 06:23 PM

DUBAI: KC-46 trims major deficiencies to one

12 November, 2017 SOURCE: BY: Stephen Trimble Dubai

Only one deficiency...........ohhh yeah, our boom will swat your Fighter out of the skies! Sheeeeeesh...............:no: :no: :no:

Boeing’s long-troubled KC-46A tanker development programme is nearing resolution, with only one outstanding deficiency expected to remain after this month, the company’s top defence executive says.

The programme entered this year with three “Category 1” deficiencies in US Air Force acquisition terminology. The first of those has been resolved and the second is expected to be approved by the USAF later this month, says Leanne Caret, chief executive of Boeing Defense, Space and Security.

Boeing is continue to work with USAF officials to find a way to resolve the third major deficiency with the tanker hardware and software, Caret says.

The last remaining item is a concern that the remotely operated refuelling boom can make contact with the receiver aircraft outside the receiver area without the contact being detected.

The USAF awarded Boeing a $4.9 billion contract nearly seven years ago to modify the 767-2C commercial freighter into the KC-46 military tanker. Boeing expects to deliver up to 179 KC-46As to the US Air Force, replacing a fleet of aging Boeing KC-135s.

But the company has reported billions in losses on the fixed-price development programme, as a range of unexpected problems arose during the development stage.

The Middle East remains a critical piece of Boeing’s export strategy for the new tanker, Caret says.

bug2 - 14-11-2017 at 06:29 PM

DUBAI: Boeing pitches KC-46 tanker to Middle East

13 November, 2017 SOURCE: BY: Leigh Giangreco Dubai

Even as Boeing’s KC-46A struggles with testing and meeting schedule, Boeing is already marketing the next-generation tanker to potential customers in the Middle East.

There is high demand for tankers in the turbulent region, with the US Air Force currently supporting Saudi Arabia combat operations in Yemen with air refuelling.

During the Dubai air show, Boeing courted countries looking to switch or augment their tanking capabilities, says Gene Cunningham, vice president of Global Sales for Boeing Defense.

“When you look at things like tanking capability, there’s almost never enough and assets are being used and shared across the region,” he says. “In many cases I think you’ll find customers would be trying to add capability and not substitute.”

But Boeing could struggle with its tanker pitch because new testing issues continue to slow progress on the KC-46 and cause the programme to fall behind the USAF’s schedule. Boeing has narrowed down the number of critical deficiencies on KC-46, but the company has still taken a $329 million hit to cover the costs of several design changes on its first tranche of production aircraft.

Boeing could also face tough competition from Airbus, which has existing ties in the region. The company has delivered its A330 tanker to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait.

When asked how Boeing would reassure Middle East customers that the tanker could meet schedules, Cunningham said the aircraft’s performance for the USAF would reassure potential buyers.

“The airplane that will be released to the Us Air Force is going to make those performance and operational elements work for the operator. I think the issues you’ve seen in the testing process are exactly that, issues that are being resolved as we move forward with the programme,” he says. “Put the airplane out there, show it in operation, and the performance will speak for itself.”

bug2 - 2-12-2017 at 10:52 AM

France receives its first A400M fitted with pods for midair refuelling

By: Pierre Tran   9 hours ago

The latest A400M will be flown to the air base at Orleans, south of Paris, in the next few days. (Airbus)

PARIS ― France’s procurement office has revealed it received its 12th A400M airlifter, which is the first in the European program to be fitted with two underwing pods for in-flight refueling of fighter jets.

“The Direction Générale de l’Armement (DGA) took delivery Nov. 22, 2017, the 12th A400M Atlas military transport aircraft, to be handed over to the Air Force,” the DGA said in a Nov. 30 statement. The A400Ms already in service will have the fuel pod added as they undergo a retrofit over time.

The latest A400M will be flown to the air base at Orleans, south of Paris, in the next few days. France is due to receive a further three A400Ms by 2019, as set out by the 2014-19 military budget law.

The A400M program still poses problems in fitting capabilities and cutting costs, Airbus said Oct. 31 in its nine-month financial results.

“However, achievement of the contractual technical capabilities and associated costs remain highly challenging,” the aircraft company said. The A400M program also faces “challenges” in winning export orders on time, cutting costs, industrial efficiency and commercial exposure, “which could impact the program significantly,” Airbus said.

Talks continue with client nations and OCCAR, the European procurement agency, to “de-risk” the program, the company said.

Airbus Defence and Space is working to deliver two key capabilities sought by France, namely in-flight refueling of helicopters and dropping paratroopers from doors on both sides of the fuselage.

Airbus has signed a contract with Cobham for the British firm to build a hose for helicopter refueling, with a test flight expected toward the end of 2018, an Airbus spokesman said.

Test parachute jumps have been made out the fuselage doors, backed by detailed computer modeling on the aerodynamics, he said. Work continues on increasing weight and various pallets for cargo airdrops from the rear ramp.

Work on finding solutions to meet those and other requirements has eaten into Airbus’ cash pile, prompting the company to ask client nations to put a cap on financial penalties for failing to deliver the capabilities. Germany, for instance, withholds 15 percent of cash as the aircraft fails to meet the contracted capacities.

A planned meeting of ministers in London of seven client nations and Airbus was postponed to February from mid-November, Reuters reported. That meeting is to discuss the company’s request for fines to be capped.

Airbus has so far this year delivered 17 A400Ms, with expectations for 20 shipped by the end of 2017. The company delivered 17 units last year, three short of the target.

Airbus last year booked a charge of €2.2 billion (U.S. $2.6 billion) to cover financial penalties and slow deliveries.

The company has asked a reset of the financial penalties from the client nations Belgium, Britain, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Spain and Turkey. Malaysia is also a customer.

The A400M is designed to offer three-point aerial refueling, with two underwing pods and a central hose and drogue system from the fuselage.

bug2 - 3-12-2017 at 11:38 AM

Boeing will miss 2017 delivery goal for first KC-46

By: Valerie Insinna and Aaron Mehta   26 minutes ago

KC-46A AV8B Milestone C

Gee, what a surprise...........NOT!

SIMI VALLEY, Calif. — Boeing will miss its self-imposed goal to deliver the first KC-46 tanker to the Air Force by the end of the year, the head of the company’s defense business told Defense News in an exclusive interview.

“We’re not going to be delivering a tanker this year,” Leanne Caret, president and CEO of Boeing Defense and Security, said Saturday on the sidelines of the Reagan National Defense Forum.

“This has been a focus of mine since I’ve taken over this role.

The team has been persistent, they have a lot of grit, they’re continuing to drive it,” she said. “We are extremely close, we will be delivering those in 2018 and there is no doubt in my mind that this is a great franchise for the Boeing Company and we are delivering an incredible capability to the United States Air Force and to the world.”

Boeing is contractually required to deliver 18 certified KC-46s and nine refueling pods by October 2018 or face additional penalties, but is not bound by the terms of its fixed-price contract with the Air Force to hand over the first aircraft by a certain date.

As such, the company will not be subject to a fee — a minor point of consolation for Boeing, which has already had to pay $2.9 billion pretax , or about $1.9 billion after tax, because of the numerous cost overruns and delays associated with the program.

Boeing has already missed its original deadline in August 2017 to deliver the first 18 KC-46s, and first delivery has also slipped a couple times since then.

Lt. Gen. Arnold Bunch, the Air Force’s uniformed head of acquisition, said the service has been made aware that Boeing will not be able to deliver the first tanker until 2018.

“We’ve said all along that we thought it would be later than what they have been predicted, but the point on it is that Boeing is still very committed to the program,” he added. “They are a great partner, they are definitely committed and are throwing resources at the program to get it to go forward, and we’re doing everything we can to provide the resources to make them successful at getting it done as quickly as they can.”

Bunch said the Air Force had expected to accept the first KC-46 in March, but now “we think it may be a little later than that,” he said.

The Air Force plans to purchase 179 KC-46s during its program of record, and Boeing is hoping to rake in international sales once the program moves out of the test phase.

While Boeing still has a considerable amount of testing required before it can deliver a certified KC-46, the company is also facing challenges in resolving several category-one deficiencies that cropped up this year.

The Air Force has resolved one issue, which occurred when the flow of fuel suddenly stops, causing the KC-46 boom to push forward into the receptacle of the receiving aircraft.

“We’ve worked through the engineering and we’ve done the systems engineering analysis and that one is solved,” Bunch said.

Another problem — which involved ensuring that the high-frequency radio remains off during refueling, even during a systems failure — is slated to be resolved “reasonably quickly” after further testing, he said.

However, the Air Force has still not been able to identify the root cause of why the boom seems to be scraping the receiving aircraft during a refueling, and more testing needs to be done to determine whether the problem is occurring more with the KC-46 than with legacy tankers.

“We’re trying to observe and collect data,” Bunch said. “All of that engineering analysis and those data collections from flight, and all of that, is still something the team is working on.”

bug2 - 20-12-2017 at 01:09 PM

Contract Signing Ceremony Another Milestone for MRTT Fleet

(Source: NATO Support and Procurement Agency; issued Dec 18, 2017)

A signing ceremony for a contract award related to the Multinational Multi-Role Tanker Transport Fleet (MMF) Programme was held on 17 December, in Rehovot, Israel.

The US$ multi-million supplemental agreement to the contract was awarded to Elbit Systems to supply Directed Infrared Countermeasures self-protection systems to the Airbus A330 MMF fleet. The contract will be performed over a four-year period.

NSPA’s General Manager Mr. Peter Dohmen participated in the signing ceremony and the NSPA delegation included Mr. Andreas Zuschke, Principal Project Officer (MMF) from NSPA’s Aviation Support Programme and Mr. Adrian Kenn, NSPA’s Senior Procurement Officer. From Elbit Systems, Mr. Elad Aharonson, General Manager Elbit Systems – ISTAR Division, participated in the signing ceremony and the delegation included Mr. Sasson Meshar, VP Airborne Optronic & Laser Systems, Mr. Arnon Bram, Senior Director Head of DIRCM Systems Business Unit and Mr. Ziv Ashkenazi, Senior Director Head of Regional Marketing – ISTAR.

Colonel Jan der Kinderen represented the MMF Nations as Chairman of the MMF Steering Group.


bug2 - 22-12-2017 at 12:15 PM

Boeing KC-46 receives 767 certification

21 December, 2017 SOURCE: BY: Leigh Giangreco Washington DC

The Boeing has received an amended type certificate for the 767-2C that serves as the baseline aircraft for conversion into the US Air Force KC-46A tanker, the company says.

Boeing expects to deliver the first KC-46 to the air force next year but first must receive two certifications from the US Federal Aviation Administration. In addition to the amended certification for the 767-2C, the programme is still working on qualifying for a supplemental type certification for the modifications required to convert the aircraft into a military tanker.

“We continue to make good progress on the STC effort – 83% complete at present -- and have moved into the FAA flight testing phase,” Boeing KC-46 programme manager Mike Gibbons says in a statement.

Prior to the 767 certification, Boeing completed a series of ground and flight tests focusing on the aircraft’s avionics, autoflight and environmental control systems, as well as its new fuel system.

Boeing has six KC-46 test aircraft supporting the certification effort. So far, KC-46s have refueled four different fighters -- F-16, F/A-18, AV-8B and A-10 -- and three airlifters or tankers, including the C-17, KC-10 and other KC-46 aircraft.

In a report last spring, the Government Accountability Office attributed some of the KC-46 programme’s schedule delays to delayed FAA certifications.

bug2 - 27-12-2017 at 02:18 PM

Boeing scores big with F-15, KC-46 contracts with foreign militaries

By: Valerie Insinna   4 days ago

They've managed to sell ONE to Japan! (who already operate 767-based aircraft) zzzzzzzzzzzzzz :no: :no:

WASHINGTON — Two major contracts announced Friday, including a long-awaited F-15 sale to Qatar and the first-ever international KC-46A tanker sale, will give Boeing a reason to celebrate this holiday season.

The first contract, worth up to $6.1 billion, includes 36 new F-15 fighter jets for Qatar. The Air Force also awarded a separate deal to Boeing for one KC-46 for Japan with a price tag of about $289 million.

The F-15QA order is critical for Boeing, as it will extend the F-15 production line into the next decade. However, it appears to be smaller than initially predicted.

The U.S. government and Qatar finalized the F-15QA deal in June, then estimating a total value of $12 billion for 36 jets. When the deal was approved by the State Department in November 2016, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency estimated a total value of $21.1 billion for 72 jets — not an unusual circumstance, as the final agreed-upon contract award often is lower than DSCA’s initial estimates.

Boeing’s first sale of the KC-46 marked an important symbolic victory for the beleaguered tanker program, which has lagged in development and international sales compared to its closest competitor, the Airbus A330.

Friday’s deal could signify the start of greater international buy-in to the program, something that Boeing officials see as critical for making the program profitable and the U.S. Air Force sees as important for enhancing interoperability with partner nations.

“We are excited to partner with Boeing as we assist Japan in advancing its aerial refueling capabilities,” said Brig. Gen. Donna Shipton, program executive officer of tankers for the U.S. Air Force. “This is an important step in strengthening the U.S.-Japan alliance and will enhance our interoperability with both nations flying KC-46s.”

Boeing’s agreement with Japan includes one KC-46, the non-recurring engineering work necessary to build it to Japanese requirements and logistics support, according to the contract announcement. Work is expected to be complete in 2021.

Importantly, the parties entered into a firm, fixed-price agreement for the KC-46, similar to Boeing’s current contract with the U.S. Air Force. That means that if Boeing is responsible for cost overruns, the company will have to pay for them.

The U.S. Air Force plans on buying 179 KC-46s. Boeing is contractually obligated to deliver the first 17 certified tankers to the service next October.

Over the past several months, the tanker has run into technical issues — including a still unsolved problem with the tanker’s boom, which sometimes scratches the surface of the receiving aircraft.

However, the program is making progress in other areas. The Federal Aviation Administration has certified the 767-2C, the modified 767 commercial plane that forms that basis of the KC-46, Boeing announced Thursday. The program still has to attain one final certificate for the aircraft’s military-specific equipment from the FAA.

The State Department approved the KC-46 sale to Japan in September 2016, then estimated to have a value of $1.9 billion.

ADMK2 - 27-12-2017 at 03:12 PM

Qatar is an odd bird. I see they are buying F-15, Rafale AND Typhoon all in reasonable numbers... If one were replaced with a Sukhoi or a current Chinese fighter I could perhaps understand diversifying your supplier base, but 2 Eurocanards in the same service?

Why? Dodgy contracting no doubt, but that is a ludicrous force structure.

bug2 - 27-12-2017 at 03:28 PM

Politics mate, by buying from the USA, the Brits and the French, they think they can get some political support from all three nations against Saudi and Other Gulf States aggression and dislike of the current Qatari mentioned previously, either the planes will need some form of Contractor support and/or they only use a proportion of the fleet...................I think they'll use a heavy Contractor presence for Maintenance Support, with the majority, if not all, of the planes flown by Nationals.

bug2 - 4-1-2018 at 05:05 PM

Belgium Allocates €258M to Euro Tanker Fleet

(Source: Belga news service; published Dec. 23, 2017)

(Published in French and Dutch; unofficial translation by

The Council of Ministers decided Friday (Dec. 22) to allocate 258 million euros to the Belgian participation in a fleet of European tankers, an amount that corresponds to the value of an aircraft Airbus A330 MRTT (Multi Role Tanker Transport), the Ministry of Defense has announced.

The aircraft will be configured for in-flight refueling missions of all current and future fighter jets.

This Belgian decision will therefore increase from 7 to 8 aircraft the European fleet being prepared for the Multinational Multi Role Tanker Transport (MMF) program for the benefit of the European Union and NATO, and to compensate for one of the main shortcomings of European armies.

Germany, Norway, the Netherlands and Luxembourg have already placed a firm order for seven Airbus A330-200 MRTTs, built by Airbus Defense and Space (ADS), a subsidiary of the European group Airbus.

The eight tankers are acquired and operated according to the European principle of "pooling and sharing", said the Minister of Defense, Steven Vandeput (N-VA), in a statement.

The MMF program will be funded by five countries, which will have exclusive exploitation rights for these NATO-owned aircraft, according to a pooling agreement.

The aircraft will be configured for in-flight refueling missions of all current and future fighter jets (US F-35 Lightning II, French Rafale and European Eurofighter), passenger and freight transport, and medical evacuation.

The delivery of the first seven aircraft is expected between 2020 and 2022, according to Airbus.

But Belgium should be able to resort quickly - before the delivery of the 8th aircraft, which should be operational by 2025, according to Mr Vandeput – to the A330 MRTT "pool" for missions to refuel its F-16 or for medical evacuation, according to Mr. Vandeput's entourage.

The MMF program was initiated by the European Defense Agency (EDA) in 2012. The European Organization for Co-operation in Armaments (OCCAR) manages the acquisition phase of the MMF as the executing agency of the contract for NSPA, a NATO agency. At the end of this phase, NSPA will be responsible for the complete management of the fleet life-cycle.

At least some of these aircraft will be registered in the Netherlands and based in Eindhoven (southern Netherlands) to replace the current KDC-10 tankers of the Dutch air force, with an advanced base in Cologne (Germany). Costs and personnel will be allocated according to the number of flying hours required by each country, under the supervision of the European Tactical Transport Command (EATC, based in Eindhoven),

The "strategic vision" for the Belgian army by 2030 endorsed in June 2016 by the Michel government plans to invest in such a device to the tune of 300 million euros in the period 2024-2027.

Proven in combat, the A330 MRTT is equipped with an Airbus Aerial Refueling Boom System (ARBS), and two underwater tube / basket refueling pods. Both systems are used to refuel in flight all types of aircraft (combat or transport) in service in the West.

According to the Defense, this type of aircraft totals 56 firm orders by eight countries. France has ordered nine copies - out of a total need expressed of twelve aircraft - with a first delivery scheduled for 2018. This model has also been selected by India and Qatar.


bug2 - 6-1-2018 at 07:15 PM

Boeing Still Working To Repair Major KC-46 Defects

Jan 4, 2018

Lara Seligman | Aerospace Daily & Defense Report

KC-46: Boeing

Boeing is still working to fix three deficiencies related to the refueling process of the KC-46 Pegasus that must be resolved before the troubled tanker can enter service, the U.S. Air Force says.

The most worrying issue is a tendency of the tanker’s rigid refueling boom to scrape the surface of receiving aircraft. This is of particular concern for stealth aircraft such as the B-2 bomber, F-22 and F-35 fighter, if the boom causes damage to low-observable stealth coatings.

The industry-government team is currently collecting flight test data to determine how the rate and severity of these incidents compares with international norms, Air Force spokeswoman Capt. Emily Grabowski says. This data will inform a decision on whether changes to the remote camera used for aerial refueling are needed, expected by March 2018, she said.

The camera system in the KC-46 was the best the market offered in 2012 when the aircraft was being contracted, but is not the latest technology, Air Force spokesman Col. Christopher Karns told Aviation Week in September. The remote camera is critical to the refueling process in the new tanker as the KC-46 boom operator sits near the front of the aircraft and operates the boom remotely. In legacy tankers like the KC-135, the boom operator guides the boom from the back of the plane, where he can see the receiver aircraft and the boom itself.

Boeing spokesman Chick Ramey downplayed the issue, noting that “contacts outside the refueling receptacle do happen in the current tanker fleet as well.

“We have confidence in our design and in our camera system, and we are working with the USAF to ensure that the KC-46 contact rate is within normal bounds,” Ramey continued.

Another deficiency is related to the KC-46’s high-frequency (HF) radios, which use the skin of the aircraft as an antenna and sometimes causes electrical sparks and arcs. The Air Force wants to make sure those radios are fail-safe and can never transmit during the refueling process, for fear of any sparks causing fires.

A Boeing spokesman told Aviation Week in December that the company had resolved the problem. But Grabowski said the deficiency report is still open, and development of options to address the issue are expected to take until sometime in January.

The final problem—uncommanded boom extensions when disconnecting from a receiver aircraft with fuel flowing—has been downgraded from Category One, the most serious, to Category Two, Grabowski said. The government-industry team has identified a solution and expects to implement the fix in May 2018, she said.

Boeing is contractually obligated to deliver 18 full-up tankers to the Air Force by October 2018. But the company has still not delivered the first aircraft.

In a recent piece of good news, the FAA on Dec. 21 granted Boeing an amended type certificate for the KC-46 baseline aircraft, the 767-2C, an aerial refueling derivative of its 767 freighter. The company still needs to obtain a supplemental type certificate for the military and aerial refueling systems that turn the 767-2C into a KC-46.

Still, despite the hiccups, delays and charges to Boeing, the deal is considered relatively low-risk for the Air Force. The service’s financial obligations are capped at $4.9 billion, thanks to the fixed-price terms of the contract. The overall program is valued at about $44 billion for 179 tankers.

“Boeing and the Air Force will resolve the CAT 1 items and complete the remaining KC-46 requirements,” Ramey said.” Our recent successes last month, to include first flight of the first delivery aircraft and receiving the Amended Type Certificate, help us move closer to delivering the world’s most capable tanker to the U.S. Air Force.”

bug2 - 16-1-2018 at 01:39 PM

Airbus tops up A330 tanker backlog

15 January, 2018 SOURCE: BY: Craig Hoyle London

Airbus closed 2017 with the formal receipt of an order for five A330-200s to be adapted to the multirole tanker/transport (MRTT) configuration to equip a future pooled European fleet.

Confirmed as Airbus announced its commercial orders data for last month on 15 January, the order – from the company's defence unit – increases to seven the number of A330 MRTTs to be acquired under a multinational initiative championed by the European Defence Agency.

Airbus Defence & Space

The five-aircraft commitment follows an initial order for two tanker/transports, placed via Europe's OCCAR defence procurement agency following an agreement with Luxembourg and the Netherlands, and was enabled by the addition of Germany and Norway to the multinational MRTT fleet programme. Airbus Defence & Space had announced its receipt of a contract for the five tanker/transports last September.

Deliveries will run between 2020 and 2022, although numbers could be increased to 11 aircraft, pending the addition of further nations.

Belgian media reports in late December indicated that Brussels has also confirmed its intention to participate in the initiative, and its inclusion would boost the fleet size to eight aircraft.

Meanwhile, Airbus Defence & Space detailed the status of two other A330 MRTT contracts in mid-December. The company confirms that deliveries will commence for Singapore and South Korea this year, and refers to "imminent entry into service for both countries".

Singapore has ordered six MRTTs, while South Korea will introduce a four-strong fleet of the type. The nations will follow Australia, Saudi Arabia, the UK and the United Arab Emirates in fielding the adapted widebody, which is also on order for the French air force.

bug2 - 27-1-2018 at 01:53 PM

Russia marks maiden flight of Il-78M-90A tanker

Gareth Jennings, London - Jane's Defence Weekly

26 January 2018

A screenshot taken from a video of the first flight of the Il-78M-90A tanker, which took place on 25 January. Source: UAC

The maiden flight of the new Ilyushin Il-78M-90A aerial refuelling tanker for the Russian Aerospace Forces (VKS) took place on 25 January.

The 35-minute flight took place out of the Aviastar-SP production facility located in Ulyanovsk, approximately 600 km east of Moscow.

The Il-78M-90A (previously referred to as the Il-478) is based on the new Il-76MD-90A (Il-476) transport aircraft, which is itself a modernised version of the Soviet-era Il-76 ‘Candid’ airlifter. The new tanker version shares the avionic, structural, and powerplant improvements of the upgraded transport aircraft.

These enhancements include a digital ‘glass’ cockpit as well as modernised flight, navigation, and communication systems.

Structural improvements comprise a modified wing and reinforced landing gear. The engines have also been updated, giving the aircraft a 60-tonne payload (up from 40 tonnes for the baseline Il-76/78) and a 12% reduced fuel consumption.

The VKS is expected to buy 34 of the new tankers to replace its current Il-78s. The Il-478 can carry 91 tonnes of fuel in its main tanks, plus another 36 tonnes in an auxiliary tank in the cargo hold to give 127 tonnes of transferable fuel.

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bug2 - 1-2-2018 at 07:20 PM

Delhi hopes to be third time lucky with new tanker RFI

01 February, 2018 SOURCE: Bangalore

India’s ministry of defence has issued a fresh request for information for six mid-air refueling tankers, following two abortive earlier attempts.

This time the requirement specifies that the tanker aircraft be powered by two turbofan engines, ruling out the Ilyushin IL-78.

Concerns about high acquisition costs derailed earlier attempts to procure an airborne tanker. As a result the latest RFI includes the option of procuring a suitable used aircraft, which can be modified for the tanker role.

Airbus Defence and Space, the winner of two earlier competitions with its A330 multi-role tanker transport (MRTT), says it is aware of the new RFI, and will “examine the requirement”.

Boeing, which did not participate in the two earlier competitions, is in the fray this time around.

“We received an RFI from India for aerial refueling tankers and have briefed the Indian air force about the KC-46’s capabilities,” says Boeing India president Pratyush Kumar.

Given that the RFI says that converted jet is possible, IAI Bedek is likely to offer its Boeing 767 multi mission tanker transport (MMTT) conversion.

Despite the release of a fresh RFI, a procurement decision could be years away. Twelve years have passed since the original tanker procurement tender was issued in 2006.

The air force presently operates a fleet of six IL-78s that entered service between 2003 and 2004 and are due to enter major overhaul starting this year. The IL-78 fleet suffers from poor serviceability rates (49% in the 2016 financial year) as sourcing of spares from Russia and the Ukraine for the aircraft has proved troublesome.

unicorn - 1-2-2018 at 07:42 PM

Quote: Originally posted by bug2  

Despite the release of a fresh RFI, a procurement decision could be years away. Twelve years have passed since the original tanker procurement tender was issued in 2006.

Ah, Indian defence procurement at its finest, and they still haven't signed up for anything!

bug2 - 7-3-2018 at 07:44 PM

Boeing’s KC-46 Tanker Delayed Again

Mar 6, 2018

Lara Seligman | Aerospace Daily & Defense Report


The U.S. Air Force is predicting that Boeing won’t deliver the first KC-46 tanker until late 2018, casting doubt on the defense firm’s ability to meet a contractual deadline that, if missed, likely would result in significant penalties.

Boeing’s master schedule currently pegs first aircraft delivery to the fleet in the second quarter of calendar year 2018—already months behind schedule. But after a joint schedule risk assessment, the Air Force now believes delivery is more likely to occur in late 2018, according to spokeswoman Capt. Emily Grabowski.

“The Air Force will continue to work with Boeing to develop schedule mitigations, where appropriate, to expedite the program,” Grabowski said. “These potential delays will not result in additional program cost to the taxpayer.”

Boeing is on tap to deliver 18 full-up tankers to the Air Force by October, a longstanding contractual deadline. Boeing likely will suffer significant penalties if it misses the deadline, adding to the $2.9 billion in pretax fees, or about $1.9 billion after tax, the firm has already racked up on the program.

The way the fixed-price contract is structured, responsibility for cost growth rests squarely on Boeing’s shoulders. This means that the firm, not the government, will absorb 100% of the overall cost overrun.

The top issues slowing progress are the same as they have been for the past year—achieving airworthiness certifications and getting through flight tests, Grabowski said.

Although the FAA late last year granted Boeing an amended type certification for the tanker derivative of the 767-2C, the company still has not obtained a crucial supplemental type certification for all the military and aerial refueling appendages that turn that 767-2C into a KC-46.

And Boeing has yet to correct a major problem: a tendency of the tanker’s rigid refueling boom to scrape the surface of receiving aircraft. This is of particular concern for stealth aircraft, such as the B-2 bomber, F-22 or F-35 fighters, if the boom causes damage to low-observable stealth coatings.

The industry-government team currently is collecting flight test data to determine how the rate and severity of these incidents compare with international norms, Grabowski previously told Aviation Week. This data will inform a decision on whether changes to the remote camera used for aerial refueling are needed, expected this month.

That fault is the only open “Category I deficiency”—the most severe kind—on the KC-46, Grabowski said.

Two other open deficiencies have been downgraded to Category II, Grabowski noted. One is related to the KC-46’s high-frequency (HF) radios, which use the skin of the aircraft as an antenna and sometimes cause electrical sparks and arcs.

The Air Force wants to make sure those radios are fail-safe and can never transmit during the refueling process, for fear of any sparks causing fires.

Risk on this front was found to be “acceptable,” but the system still does not meet specification requirements, Grabowski said. The Air Force expects Boeing to come up with a long-term fix to completely eliminate risk.

The Air Force also expects Boeing to implement a minor software update this spring to address the last open deficiency, uncommanded boom extensions when disconnecting from a receiver aircraft with fuel flowing, Grabowski said.

“We worked closely with the U.S. Air Force on the updated KC-46 Schedule Risk Assessment and discussed a range of delivery dates,” Boeing spokesman Chick Ramey said. “While there is always risk on any development program, we’re relying on our partnership with the Air Force to help mitigate those risks, complete KC-46 testing and deliver 18 game-changing tankers to them as quickly as possible.”

bug2 - 30-3-2018 at 05:21 PM

Has Boeing Been Neglecting KC-46?

Mar 30, 2018

Lara Seligman | Aviation Week & Space Technology

After years of delays and technical setbacks for Boeing’s KC-46A tanker program, the U.S. Air Force is running out of patience with the aerospace giant.

Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson ripped Boeing in front of the House Armed Services Committee during a March 20 hearing, complaining that the manufacturer is more focused on its commercial business than “on getting this right for the Air Force.”

As if in response, Leanne Caret, CEO of Boeing Defense, Space and Security, is reorganizing its defense business. In a move Boeing says has been in the works for several months, the company will stand up two new divisions starting April 2: Commercial Derivative Aircraft, and Missile and Weapon Systems, spokesman Todd Blecher confirmed March 29.

Simultaneously, Boeing will eliminate a “Development” business unit created in 2015.

- Boeing is standing up a new division focused on commercial derivative aircraft
- USAF projects Boeing will not deliver the first KC-46 until late 2018
- USAF has identified three Category 1 and two Category 2 deficiencies that must be resolved
- USAF asked Boeing in March “to put their A team on this”

The Commercial Derivative Aircraft unit, to be based in Seattle, will handle the KC-46, the U.S. Navy’s P-8 maritime patrol aircraft and the new Air Force One, all of which derive from Boeing commercial jetliners. The Missile and Weapon Systems unit will be based in Huntsville, Alabama.

“The organizational move reflects the fact that tanker is progressing toward delivery and its transition to a production effort is more than a development one,” Blecher wrote in a March 29 email to Aviation Week.

The move appears designed to reassure the Pentagon that Boeing is laser-focused on delivering the beleaguered KC-46 as well as other commercial-derivative aircraft.

“I think there’s a perception that the company sees its future as more commercial jetliner-oriented and they prioritized resources accordingly,” says Richard Aboulafia, an analyst with the Teal Group. “This sends a message that they are determined to fight that impression.”

But Boeing has a long way to go to get the KC-46 back on track.

The Air Force recently added two new Category 1 deficiencies—the most severe type—to the KC-46’s growing list of problems. The two new technical issues could further delay fielding of the aircraft, the first of which will not make it to the fleet until late 2018 at the earliest, the Air Force estimates.

The first KC-46A that Boeing is slated to deliver to the Air Force took flight for the first time on Dec. 7, 2017. Credit: Boeing

This delay jeopardizes Boeing’s ability to meet a contractual deadline to deliver 18 operationally ready tankers to the Air Force by October, a date that has already slipped from the original target of August 2017.

Boeing was late to acknowledge that the first KC-46 would not be delivered by the end of 2017, a longtime internal goal. So the Air Force believes it has reason to be skeptical that the pending deadline will be met.

“Boeing is saying they are going to deliver in the second quarter of 2018. The Air Force thinks it is more likely to be late 2018. And Boeing has been overly optimistic in all of their schedule reports,” Wilson told lawmakers.

A major contributor to the slippage is that flight-testing to obtain the required FAA certification for KC-46 has not gone as expeditiously as Boeing anticipated, Wilson said. And the two new deficiencies will likely add to the delay.

Air Force Undersecretary Matthew Donovan visited Boeing’s St. Louis plant in early March for a “deep dive” into the KC-46 problems, Wilson notes.

“We have asked them to put their A-team on this to get the problems fixed and get the aircraft to the Air Force,” Wilson says.

This comment, as well as the recent reorganization, raises the question: Why wasn’t Boeing’s “A-team” already working on the KC-46 program?

A look at Boeing’s overall earnings for 2017 may provide some insight. The Boeing Commercial Airplanes division contributed more than 60% of the company’s overall revenue for 2017. Of the overall $93.4 billion in revenue the manufacturer reported that year, Boeing Commercial Airplanes contributed $56.7 billion—more than twice the $21 billion from the Defense, Space and Security division and more than four times the $14.6 billion from the Global Services division.

During that time, Boeing delivered 763 commercial aircraft, including the first 737 MAX, launched the 737 MAX 10 and completed first flight of the 787-10, according to a press release on the company’s most recent earnings report. On the defense side, the only noncontractual achievement the company touted was the maiden flight of the first KC-46 to be delivered to the Air Force.

So was Wilson correct in suggesting that Boeing is not prioritizing KC-46? Aboulafia says it’s a real possibility, given that Boeing does not have unlimited engineering resources.

“It could be under-resourced,” Aboulafia says. “[Boeing] put in a very aggressive bid, which is what the Air Force wanted, and it makes the company liable for most of the overruns at this point.

So do you under-resource and continue to take hits on a pay-as-you go basis?” he asks.

Aboulafia notes that although the contract stipulates that Boeing bears responsibility for any overruns, the penalty for not delivering aircraft on time “was not really well defined.”
Of course, it is also possible Boeing simply continues to underestimate the requirements, Aboulafia says.

Right now the delay is manageable, especially since the Air Force is not on the hook for any cost overruns, but “endless problems and no clear solutions” will eventually lead the Air Force to look more closely at the contract, Aboulafia says. It is unlikely at this point that the Air Force will cancel the contract and rebid the tanker program or cut short the work, but Boeing could see penalties spike.

Boeing, for its part, maintains that delivery of the KC-46 is the company’s top priority. A company spokesman says, “Boeing has continued to demonstrate its commitment to deliver the tankers as soon as possible and believes in our partnership with the U.S. Air Force.”

But the proof will be in the pudding. It remains to be seen whether the shift is merely symbolic or if additional money will be invested in resolving KC-46 challenges.

“We’ll see if they back up the reorganization with the necessary product development resources and engineering resources,” Aboulafia says.

unicorn - 2-4-2018 at 09:48 AM


USAF: Boeing is ignoring the Pegasus in favour of their commercial sales because they actually make money off them, whereas they have so badly messed up the Pegasus that they won't see any profit from this program for decades.

Boeing: Yeah well busted, we're kinda sorry, kinda. We're restructuring to give the appearance of taking the USAF seriously, but we're not really because we have the Air Force's nuts in a vice, they desperately need tankers and our tame senators and congresscritters will ensure that the Air Force will NEVER be allowed to buy the Airbus bird, even if it actually works and is in service.

USAF: &%$@!

bug2 - 19-4-2018 at 05:41 PM

New software flaw requires FAA intervention to avoid KC-46 schedule slip

19 April, 2018 SOURCE: BY: Stephen Trimble Washington DC

AND another delay...........good luck with getting the FAA to give you a waiver, especially with your track record! :no::no:

A newly-discovered software flaw could trigger another schedule delay for the Boeing KC-46A Pegasus unless the US Federal Aviation Administration approves a temporary waiver from certification requirements.

In a document submitted to the FAA on 26 March, Boeing requests a time-limited exemption from the FAA’s supplemental type certification criteria for the 767-2C, the commercial aircraft model on which the KC-46A is derived.

If approved, the exemption would expire after 30 June next year, but by then Boeing plans to deliver a permanent fix for the software problem. Meanwhile, Boeing has proposed using a third crew member in the cockpit to mitigate any hazard from the problem while the exemption is in effect.

A “delay of FAA action on this petition” would put off the supplemental type certification of the 767-2C and “its entry into service”, Boeing says in the document.

The FAA responded to Boeing’s petition 19 days later, but did not immediately approve the exemption. Instead, Paul Siegmund, manager of the FAA’s airplane and flight crew interface section, asked Boeing to provide more details.

After Boeing provides those details, the FAA will publish Boeing’s petition in the Federal Register for a 20-day comment period.

Despite the need for an exemption, Boeing isn’t concerned about the impact on the schedule for the KC-46A.

“We are working this in concert with the USAF and are confident the FAA will grant an exemption,” Boeing tells FlightGlobal.

Boeing informed the USAF programme office of the new problem in February, the USAF says.

Since then, “the programme office has been working with Boeing to ascertain impacts and potential options” the air force adds, noting any extra costs caused by schedule delays are Boeing’s responsibility.

The software flaw affects the aircraft only when the KC-46A is on-loading fuel in-flight into the centre fuel tank.

In Boeing’s view, the problem is highly unlikely to cause a safety hazard. As fuel is onloaded into the tank, three separate functions embedded in a fuel flow controller must fail at the same time and continuously. If they do, however, an overpressure could develop in the centre fuel tank with catastrophic results, Boeing says.

But that discovery alone wouldn’t force Boeing to petition the FAA for an exemption. The certification problem for the 767-2C is based on a small detail. All three software functions that could fail operate on a single processor, according to Boeing.

The FAA’s certification rules mandate that such an aircraft use an automatic and independent system for monitoring fuel onloading to prevent an overpressure condition, Boeing’s document says.

Boeing now plans to develop, certificate and deploy such an automated monitoring system within a year. Until then, Boeing will require that the USAF assign a third crew member to monitor the fuel gauges when the aircraft is onloading fuel, according to the document.

The USAF accepts Boeing’s proposed mitigation as “manageable in the short-term”, the service tells FlightGlobal, adding, “the Air Force understands the timeline Boeing has presented to incorporate the necessary changes to remove the [proposed exemption]”.

bug2 - 4-5-2018 at 09:25 AM

Autonomous refueling considered for KC-46A upgrade plan

03 May, 2018 SOURCE: BY: Stephen Trimble Seattle

Although the delivery of the first KC-46A Pegasus is still months away, Boeing is about to launch a follow-on development programme, with potential upgrades including autonomous refueling, improved survivability and new communications systems, says the company’s programme manager.

The US Air Force will signal a contract with Boeing for follow-development of the KC-46A later this year, Mike Gibbons told reporters during a 3 May media tour of the company’s Seattle area production and test facilities.

Boeing’s first task under the contract will likely be to work with the USAF to develop a five-year roadmap of potential upgrades for the new, 767-2C-based tanker fleet, he adds.

Among the top candidates for the roadmap is the addition of an autonomous refueling capability, allowing the KC-46A to refuel other aircraft without a human operator directly controlling the operation, he says.

“We are working on the side with the autonomous features so we can work on that with the next phase,” Gibbons says.

Autonomous refueling seemed a distant capability when the KC-46A contract was awarded to Boeing in February 2011, but the the field is rapidly advancing. The US Navy plans to award a contract by the end of the year for the MQ-25A Stingray, an unmanned aircraft designed to refuel manned, carrier-based fighters. Boeing’s Phantom Works and Autonomous Systems units are participating in the competition for the MQ-25 contract, Meanwhile, Airbus last year demonstrated an autonomous refueling system on the company’s A310 testbed.

In 2011, the USAF decided to take a more conservative approach to replacing a fleet of aging Boeing KC-135E tankers.

Boeing had proposed a helmet-mounted display for the refueling operator, but the USAF preferred a more traditional console-based display. The USAF also required Boeing to allow operators to manually select the contrast and brightness levels for the display, rather than use software to select the scene automatically, Gibbons says.

The follow-on development contract puts autonomous refueling technology back on the table for the KC-46A. The aircraft is already equipped with several of the necessary features of such a system, including a camera-based remote vision system to visualize the receiver aircraft and a fly-by-wire boom with digitised flight controls.

As Boeing and the USAF embark on follow-on development, the company expects to evaluate additional sensors, such as LIDAR to augment the remote vision system and differential GPS to pinpoint the positioning between the refueling boom and the receiver aircraft, Gibbons says.

bug2 - 5-5-2018 at 07:12 PM

Boeing pushes back on the KC-46 program’s bad reputation with the Air Force

By: Valerie Insinna   16 hours ago

VIDEO at source:
Boeing Defense CEO Leanne Caret insists the company will deliver tankers on time. (Jeff Martin/Staff)

SEATTLE — Boeing has now racked up more than $3 billion worth of pretax charges on the KC-46 due to cost overruns and schedule delays, but the head of its defense business told reporters Thursday that the program’s problems are, for the most part, in the rearview mirror.

Last week, the company disclosed another $81 million-pretax penalty on the program in its financial report for the first quarter of 2018.

Leanne Caret, the CEO of Boeing’s defense sector, put a positive spin on the cost growth, saying that the expense indicates the work that is being done to get the product right as the company sprints toward a contractual obligation to deliver 18 certified tankers this year.

“The charges we took are tied to the certification efforts and the test efforts as we continue to finish up towards first delivery,” she said Thursday during a media visit to the company’s KC-46 production facilities in Everett, Washington.

According to the terms of Boeing’s fixed-price development contract with the U.S. Air Force, the company is responsible for any costs over the $4.9 billion award.

“I think what you’re seeing is that the amount of charges has continually decreased over time, again showing there has been no new technical issues,” Caret said. “But we are still in a development program, and I want to make certain that the capability we’re delivering to the war fighter meets their intent. So we’ll do the right thing as we move forward, as we have historically.”

The past several months have been difficult ones for the KC-46 development program as Boeing comes down to the wire in its efforts to deliver the first tanker this summer.

Caret has also maintained that the company can meet the “required assets available” obligation, or RAA, to deliver a total of 18 certified KC-46s and nine refueling pods this year — although the actual deadline is in October.

“This isn’t about one aircraft, and then we’re going to get started on another one,” she said. “We have an entire fleet of tankers here, and as we head toward the first delivery, we’re going to be able to start really ramping up and getting these to the customers the way we need.”

But the Air Force is more pessimistic, saying that its assessments show that the first delivery will likely not occur until the end of the year, with RAA occurring some time next spring.

Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson has been publicly dismissive of the Boeing’s progress, telling lawmakers that the company has perhaps been too focused on its lucrative commercial business to give the tanker program the attention it deserves.

“One of our frustrations with Boeing is they’re much more focused on their commercial activity than on getting this right for the Air Force and getting these aircraft to the Air Force. And that’s the message we took to them in Seattle last week,” Wilson told lawmakers in March.

Boeing obviously sought to combat that perception during its media trip, in which reporters spoke with the men and women fabricating the refueling booms, installing the wiring, flight testing the aircraft and performing quality control at its Everett Modification Center. There, reporters saw four KC-46s awaiting the final touches inside, another seven tankers outside the facility and eight KC-46s about 40 miles away at Boeing Field.

Unfinished KC-46 Pegasus aircraft sit awaiting modification at Boeing's Everett facility near Seattle, Wash. (Jeff Martin/Staff)

In total, Boeing has 34 KC-46s in some stage of production, and the first four aircraft planned for delivery have already flown and are in storage.

Caret, who took the top Boeing defense gig in February 2016, told reporters that she wanted them to understand the magnitude of work being accomplished in Washington state and the passion of the company’s workers.

Overall, the picture she gave of the program’s trajectory was sunny — and sometimes at odds with the Air Force perception of Boeing continually overselling how quickly it will be able to fulfill its delivery obligations. She downplayed tension with the Air Force, saying that she was “totally in line with them in terms of their sense of frustration” on the program.

Although Air Force leaders have said they are dissatisfied with Boeing’s performance, Caret said Boeing had not made any “specific change” to production efforts because the company had already devoted its full resources to its No. 1 program.

“The real disconnect is working through flow times,” she said. “There’s a lot of paperwork associated with delivering a system such as this, working through our paperwork, working through the FAA and the military paperwork and making sure all of those flows align, and that’s what we’re in conversations with the government on, and it’s collaborative.”

In order to be fully certified, the KC-46 must receive an amended type certificate for the aircraft’s commercial systems and a supplemental type certificate for its military-specific systems. So far, the Federal Aviation Administration has issued an ATC, and the aircraft in April wrapped up the testing necessary for the STC.

The next step will involve additional flight tests with the C-17, F-16 and KC-135 to ensure those aircraft can receive fuel from the KC-46, as well as closing out a key deficiency with the aircraft’s remote visual system that must be corrected before delivery.

So does that mean the Air Force should be doing more to make receiver aircraft available and to expedite the testing process?

“This is a team sport,” Caret said. “We all collectively need to make certain that we’re doing all the proper analysis, that we’re having the right conversations. So I feel very comfortable with our relationship with the U.S. Air Force and the transparency that we have.

“We collectively work together to look at every opportunity, likewise every risk to make sure that there’s a balance going forward and we’re doing the right thing for the war fighter.”
Check back with Defense News on May 7 for an in-depth look at Boeing’s plans to fix ongoing KC-46 technical issues.

bug2 - 10-5-2018 at 06:46 PM

Boeing to produce first KC-46 without post-build modifications this month

Pat Host, Renton, WA - IHS Jane's Defence Weekly

10 May 2018

One of two Boeing KC-46 Pegasus aerial refuelling tanker aircraft in production at a company facility in metropolitan Seattle, Washington. Source: IHS Markit/Pat Host

Key Points

- Boeing will soon produce its first KC-46 that will not require post-build modifications
- Many of these modifications were related to wiring issues

Boeing in May will, for the first time, produce a KC-46A Pegasus aerial refuelling tanker that will not require post-build modifications, according to a company official.

KC-46 vice-president and program manager Mike Gibbons told reporters on 3 May here at a company facility that the aircraft, tail number 1149, will proceed to the company’s finishing centre, where the refuelling boom and classified military avionics will be installed prior to checkout.

Gibbons said Boeing had been modifying aircraft post-production to rectify issues it found during flight test or Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) certification, or simply other problems that needed to be fixed. He said this had cost a lot of money as Boeing was working a hot production line while also completing development.

Boeing spokesperson Charles Ramey said on 9 May that these re-work issues were mostly related to wiring, which he said have evolved to incorporate producibility improvements in later blocks of aircraft. He said all prior aircraft had some post-build modifications, but the amount of these decreased over time.

“We are incorporating design and process improvements in line, especially to reduce wiring complexity at critical junction regions on the aircraft,” Ramey said. “[We] have also incorporated 3D production illustration to improve wire bundle installation.”

Ramey said Boeing, moving forward, does not expect to have to make post-build modifications, but just completing the finishing centre/military systems install work. Ramey said that aircraft 1149 appears to be one of the first 18 aircraft that will be delivered, but that Boeing and the US Air Force (USAF) were still working on a final plan as to when certain aircraft will be delivered.

(318 of 431 words)

unicorn - 10-5-2018 at 09:34 PM

A text book case of a god-almighty frak up.

bug2 - 9-6-2018 at 10:09 PM

Conclusive Tests for the A400M's Ability to Refuel Rafale

(Source: Directorate-General of Armaments, DGA; issued June 8, 2018)

(Issued in French; unofficial translation by

The Airbus A400M airlifter has successfully completed in-flight refueling trials with the Rafale fighter using underwing pods. DGA expects to issue clearance “very shortly,” allowing the French Air Force to work up on this new capability. (DGA photo)

The A400M, a tactical airlift aircraft with strategic range, is capable of refueling several types of aircraft, including fighter aircraft.

Refueling is possible through two lateral points via a refueling pod attached under the wing (for fighters) or by a fuselage-mounted HDU (Hose Drum Unit) refueling unit for transport aircraft and fighters. An forthcoming specific version of the underwing nacelle will allow refueling of helicopters.

After a flight test campaign conducted by the Directorate General of Armament (DGA) with the support of the French Air Force, the A400M has just passed a new milestone by demonstrating its ability to refuel the Rafale fighter using its underwing nacelles.

During these tests, the Rafale was refueled by the A400M throughout its flight envelope (at various altitudes and speeds) including in so-called degraded aircraft modes of the aircraft: simulated failure of an engine and flight controls.

The tests were conducted by day and night, including with night vision goggles, in several Rafale configurations (light aircraft, rear-heavy attitude with high drag generation).

DGA’s In-Flight Trials unit conducted, with the support of the Air Force’s Military Air Expertise Center (CEAM), these tests that will allow DGA, acting as technical authority for State-owned aircraft, to very shortly authorize the Rafale to be refueled on A400M.

The Air Force, for its part, is working to determine the conditions for putting of this new capacity into service in an operational context, by setting up the means of its implementation (procedures, technical support, training, etc.). The A400M will then be able to offer a theater refueling capacity.

Further flight refueling campaigns are planned for 2019, such as the twin refueling of the Mirage 2000 via the nacelles, and of other transport aircraft through the centerline HDU refueling point.


unicorn - 9-6-2018 at 10:52 PM

Incidentally, the French are coming to Pitch Black this year. It's been more than a decade since they were last here for Pitch Black.

The reason I mention it in this thread is that they are deploying from metropolitan France with 3 x Rafales, a KC-135 tanker, an A310 passenger bird for the ground crews and an A400 transport to carry the spares.

The KC-135 can't make the long haul with all those birds from the Middle East to Darwin, so they are getting a fighter drag from the RAAF, with a KC-30 dragging the Rafales from the UAE to Singapore then Darwin.

MELBOURNE, Australia ― France will be deploying a detachment of combat aircraft to the Indo-Pacific region for a major air exercise in Australia and for additional interactions with Asian air forces, as France seeks to increase its presence in the region.

According to an announcement by the French Air Force, three Dassault Rafale fighters will leave France for Darwin in northern Australia in late July via stopovers in Al-Dhafra in the United Arab Emirates and Singapore.

The Rafales will be joined by a French Air Force Boeing C-135FR Stratotanker, an Airbus A400M strategic airlifter and an Airbus A310 passenger transport aircraft for the deployment. From the UAE, a single Royal Australian Air Force Airbus KC-30A multirole tanker transport will accompany the French aircraft for the journey to Australia.

In Australia, the French will participate in Exercise Pitch Black, a biannual large-scale multinational air-combat exercise involving approximately 80 aircraft and personnel from 16 countries that will take place during three weeks in August.

Following Pitch Black, the French contingent will visit Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and then India before the Rafales return to Al-Dhafra between Aug. 19 and Sept. 4. The French deployment, code-named PEGASE 2018, will involve 90 French airmen and commandos along with 40 tons of technical and support equipment.

The PEGASE 2018 deployment plan. (French Air Force) The PEGASE 2018 deployment plan. (French Air Force)
The PEGASE 2018 deployment is the largest French Air Force deployment to the region since six Dassault Mirage 2000s were deployed to the region in 2004, where they also took part in an earlier iteration of Exercise Pitch Black.

According to the French Air Force, the objectives of this deployment are to hone the ability of the French Air Force to deploy its air power globally, strengthen France’s presence in the strategic Indo-Pacific region and deepen relations with key regional countries.

The deployment will also serve as an opportunity to showcase the French defense and aerospace industry, with Indonesia and Malaysia being seen as like export opportunities for the Rafale and India looking for more fighters, having already purchased 36 of the French jets.

bug2 - 27-6-2018 at 11:27 AM

KC-46 Tanker Inches Toward Delivery Date

Jun 27, 2018

Jen DiMascio | Aviation Week & Space Technology

The U.S. Air Force and Boeing may have agreed on an October 2018 delivery date for the first KC-46A aerial refueling tanker, but the service is still trying to resolve deficiencies and testing software fixes.

Lt. Gen. Arnold Bunch, the Air Force’s top military acquisition official, says issues could come up in testing, but he is hoping to speed up delivery: “We believe [the schedule] is aggressive but achievable.”

The agreement on a delivery date represents the next step in a saga two decades long to replace the service’s Eisenhower-era KC-135 tankers.

- Tests of Remote Vision System are ongoing
- Boeing has nearly three dozen aircraft in various stages of production

Just getting to the agreement has been typical of this program. It was more difficult than anyone thought possible for what might have been a simple retrofit: adding a refueling capability to the long-produced Boeing 767 commercial aircraft.

The U.S. government started looking for new tankers shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center in New York. But it was not until 2011 that Boeing landed the eventual contract award for $3.5 billion for 18 tankers.

And now Boeing and its customer, the Air Force, finally have agreed on a path forward.

“As a result of months of collaboration, the Air Force and Boeing KC-46A teams have reached an agreed joint program schedule to get to the first 18 aircraft deliveries. This includes the expectation that the first KC-46A aircraft acceptance and delivery will occur in October 2018, with the remaining 17 aircraft delivered by April 2019,” Air Force Undersecretary Matthew Donovan says. “While the KC-46A flight-test program is nearly complete, significant work remains. The Air Force is looking forward to KC-46A first delivery and will continue to work with Boeing on opportunities to expedite the program.”

The feeling is mutual. Boeing now has more than three dozen KC-46s in the production flow, from nearly complete to the early stages of being built, and is eager to begin deliveries.

“We’re also very excited to start getting the aircraft in their hands,” says Leanne Caret, the president of Boeing Defense, Space and Security.

After nearly two decades, the Air Force appears months away from receiving KC-46A tankers to replace its aging fleet of KC-135s. Credit: Boeing

The pace of deliveries of about three per month is consistent with what the Air Force said it wanted in April.

But getting to this moment of agreement has not been easy.

Boeing already has incurred more than $3 billion in pre-tax charges on the program, which was awarded as a fixed-price contract to shield the government from cost overruns. However, it did not help with schedule delays. According to the Government Accountability Office, the original development contract mandated that Boeing would deliver the 18 aircraft by August 2017.

In addition to scuffling over the schedule, Boeing and the Air Force have been at odds over many technical issues, most recently about the need to fix the Remote Vision System sensor that enables the fuel-delivery boom to be operated from the tanker cockpit. The Air Force was concerned the boom could accidentally scrape the receiver aircraft during certain flight conditions; Boeing said its system met the service’s requirements. As of April, Boeing had agreed to upgrade the software in time to deliver the first aircraft.

The work is ongoing. Boeing and the KC-46A program office are still trying to find ways to resolve deficiencies, and the Air Force is testing Boeing’s software fix for the Remote Vision System.

“Boeing and the KC-46A program office agreed to incorporate additional test points to assess military utility of the current design,” the Air Force states in an email. “Laboratory testing of Boeing’s hardware and software fixes to the Centerline Drogue System also continues. Flight-test verification of the fixes is now forecasted for September 2018.”

And though Bunch says he would like to streamline the process and receive the aircraft before October, “It will all depend on how we get through the remainder of the test program.”

Asked to reflect on what could be learned from the program, Caret says, “I think that there are clearly lessons on both sides.” She notes that such complicated programs require that all parties speak the same language.

“I do think though that when you have a tough program like this, it’s easy for relationships to get strained over time—especially one that goes on for as many years as this has,” Caret says. “That’s not atypical for Boeing or any other contractor, they’re just hard. . . . We all had a shared destiny, which was getting this capability in the hands of the warfighter, and when you clear all the other mud away and you focus on that—the line of sight to getting through—any resolution becomes a lot easier.”

bug2 - 28-6-2018 at 09:26 AM

A400M nations qualify aircraft for air-to-air refuelling

Nicholas Fiorenza, London - IHS Jane's Defence Weekly

27 June 2018

France has completed A400M-to-Rafale refuelling trials. Source: DGA

European air forces procuring the A400M are qualifying the transport aircraft for air-to-air refuelling.

The Luftwaffe reported on 25 June that an A400M of its Lufttransportgeschwader (Air Transport Squadron) 62 has conducted aerial refuelling of Spanish Air Force EF-18s to demonstrate the German aircraft’s capabilities to do so.

The German A400M recently flew from its base at Wunstorf to Zaragoza, from where it took off the next day to dispense 14 tonnes of fuel to a total of 10 EF-18s through air-to-air refuelling pods mounted on its wings tips. After a second day of testing, the German A400M’s aerial refuelling capability was proven, according to the Luftwaffe.

Earlier in June, the Direction Générale de l’Armement (DGA), the French defence procurement agency, reported that its flight trials unit had conducted a campaign demonstrating a French Air Force A400M’s capability to refuel Rafale combat aircraft.

This included tests simulating a failure of the A400M’s engine and flight controls, in the dark with night-vision goggles, and with the Rafale in various configurations.

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bug2 - 10-7-2018 at 05:27 PM

Anatomy Of The Boeing KC-46A Pegasus

Jul 10, 2018

Aviation Week & Space Technology

The U.S. Air Force will receive the first of its long-awaited Boeing KC-46A Pegasus aerial refueling tankers in October 2018 and another 17 by April 2019. Although deliveries were delayed by protracted development issues, the Air Force remains on track to take up to 179 KC-46As by 2027. Designed to replace the aging KC-135, the multirole KC-46A is capable of air refueling using both boom and hose-and-drogue systems. The aircraft also can carry cargo, passengers and patients.

Refueling System

Credit: Boeing Concept

R1 | Fuel tanks with 212,000-lb. capacity configured with onboard inert-gas-generating system
R2 | Additional lower-lobe fuel tanks, one forward and three aft, for 60,000 lb. added fuel offload
R3 | Aerial refueling operator/instructor stations with cross controls for redundancy/training
R4 | Air-to-air refueling receptacle capable of accepting 1,200 gal./min.
R5 | Removable Cobham wing aerial-refueling pod capable of 400-gal./min. delivery
R6 |Fly-by-wire refueling boom with 1,200-gal./min. delivery

Transport Capacity

T1 | Up to 18 back-to-back 463L cargo pallets or 11 loaded along centerline; 9g cargo barrier
T2 | Standard six foldaway litters with provision for up to 24 along centerline plus seating and medical support for up to 30 ambulatory patients
T3 | Palletized seating for up to 108 passengers in current USAF configuration
T4 | Large storage cabinets forward of aft bulkhead
T5 | Air transportable galley/lavatory module, movable to various deck locations
T6 | Main deck cargo door (134 X 105 in.)
T7 | Nose- gear-strut APU control unit and crew entrance hatch for quick-reaction starts
T8 | Aircrew compartment with galley, three bunks and eight airline seats

Structure & Changes

Credit: Boeing Concept

S1 | Revised wing leading-edge slat configuration
S2 | 767-300 wing with center-section fuel
S3 | 767-200 fuselage with modified Section 41 for aerial-refueling receptacle
S4 | Strengthened 767-300 landing gear and beam support fittings
S5 | Reinforced fuselage-body frame chords
S6 | 767-400 empennage and Section 48

Communications & Countermeasures

C1 |Satellite communications, and Link 16, VHF/UHF, VOR, ADF and anti-jam GPS antennas
C2 | Flight-deck armor for crew protection against small-arms fire; electromagnetic-pulse shielding including impregnated windshield; Flight deck compatible with night-vision goggles and chemical/biological/nuclear protection suits
C3 | Raytheon ALR-69A(V) digital radar warning receiver in antennas on nose, wingtips and tail
C4 | Nose-mounted infrared lighting for covert night operations
C5 | 787-style flight deck with Rockwell Collins 15.1-in. displays and Tactical Situational Awareness System
C6 | Aft ALR-69A(V) radar warning receiver
C7 | Integrated high-frequency antenna

Power & Propulsion

P1 | Pratt & Whitney PW4062 turbofans rated at 62,000 lb. thrust
P2 | Honeywell 331-400 auxiliary power unit (APU) with first FAA transport-certified non-halon fire suppression

Beneath the KC-46A

Credit: Boeing Concept

Refueling System

1. Combined fixed housing for centerline drogue and refueling boom.
2. High-resolution stereoscopic camera system.
3. Combined housing for 185-deg. panoramic camera system and elements of Northrop Grumman AAQ-24LAIRCM directed infrared countermeasures system.
4. Centerline for guiding-pilot roll/azimuth positioning.
5. LED pilot director lights. Left for fore and aft guidance right for up-down.
6. Rudder for directional control of fly-by-wire refueling boom.
7. Lighting for centerline drogue system.
8. Centerline drogue system tunnel.
9. Control panel and door for single-point ground refueling point; second door on right side.

unicorn - 11-7-2018 at 12:53 PM


bug2 - 13-7-2018 at 08:32 PM

Airbus Performs World’s First Automatic Air-to-Air Refuelling Contact with Large Aircraft Receiver

(Source: Airbus; issued July 12, 2018)

After demonstrating automatic air-to-air refueling of a fighter, Airbus has now done it with a large aircraft receiver, with a Royal Australian Air Force KC-30A acting as receiver from an Airbus-owned A310 tanker. (Airbus photo)

MADRID --- Airbus Defence and Space has followed its earlier achievement in demonstrating Automatic Air-to-Air (A3R) refuelling of a fighter with another world-first – the same operation performed with a large receiver aircraft.

In a joint operation with the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF), which is collaborating with Airbus in development of this pioneering technology, Airbus’ A310 company development tanker performed seven automatic contacts with a RAAF KC-30A Multi Role Tanker Transport, also made by Airbus.

The system requires no additional equipment on the receiver and is intended to reduce refuelling boom operator workload, improve safety, and optimise the rate of air-to-air refuelling (AAR) in operational conditions to maximise aerial superiority. Airbus has begun work towards introducing the system on the current production A330 Multi Role Tanker Transport (A330 MRTT).

During initial approach of the receiver, boom control is performed by the tanker’s Air Refuelling Operator (ARO) as usual. Innovative passive techniques such as image processing are then used to determine the receiver’s refuelling receptacle position and when the automated system is activated, a fully automated flight control system flies and maintains the boom aligned with the receiver’s receptacle.

The telescopic beam inside the boom can be controlled in a range of ways including: manually by the ARO; a relative distance-keeping mode; or full auto-mode to perform the contact.

In the 20 June flight off the southern Spanish coast, the A310 tanker performed the scheduled seven contacts over a two-hour test period.

David Piatti, who again acted as Airbus Test ARO, or “boomer”, on the A310, said: “It was extremely impressive to see how accurately the A3R system tracks the receiver. It can be very useful to be able to refuel another tanker or transport, for example to extend its deployment range or to avoid taking fuel back to base, but it is also a challenging operation and this system has the potential to reduce workload and the risk involved.”

The trial was conducted in conjunction with Test Pilots and Flight Test Engineers from the RAAF’s Aircraft Research and Development Unit (ARDU).

Squadron Leader Lawry Benier, Executive Officer for ARDU, said the RAAF were assisting Airbus Defence & Space on the development of A3R and other technologies to increase the utility of the KC-30A within a battlespace.

“It’s very encouraging to come to Spain and see the progress that’s been made with A3R, and be able to witness it firsthand refuelling our KC-30A,” Squadron Leader Benier said.

“Refuelling large receivers is a role RAAF has conducted extensively on operations and exercises, allowing us to extend the reach and responsiveness of our air mobility fleet, as well as keep surveillance aircraft in the air for longer.”

The Airbus Defence and Space A330 MRTT is the only new generation strategic tanker/transport aircraft combat-proven and available today. The large 111 tonnes/ 245,000 lb basic fuel capacity of the successful A330-200 airliner, from which it is derived, enables the A330 MRTT to excel in air-to-air refuelling missions without the need for any additional fuel tank.

The A330 MRTT is offered with a choice of proven air-to-air refuelling systems including an advanced Airbus Defence and Space Aerial Refuelling Boom System, and/or a pair of under-wing hose and drogue pods, and/or a Fuselage Refuelling Unit.

Thanks to its true wide-body fuselage, the A330 MRTT can also be used as a pure transport aircraft able to carry up to 300 troops, or a payload of up to 45 tonnes/99,000 lb. It can also easily be converted to accommodate up to 130 stretchers for Medical Evacuation (MEDEVAC). To-date, a total of 57 A330 MRTTs have been ordered by 11 nations (Australia, Belgium, France, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Korea, the United Arab Emirates, and the United Kingdom), with two (Australia and Saudi Arabia) having already placed repeat orders.

The photos show the first automatic contact between the A310 MRTT demonstrator and the KC-30A, and an emulation of what the image processing system “sees”.

A video can be viewed and downloaded here:

Airbus is a global leader in aeronautics, space and related services. In 2017 it generated revenues of €67 billion and employed a workforce of around 129,000. Airbus offers the most comprehensive range of passenger airliners from 100 to more than 600 seats. Airbus is also a European leader providing tanker, combat, transport and mission aircraft, as well as one of the world’s leading space companies. In helicopters, Airbus provides the most efficient civil and military rotorcraft solutions worldwide.


Mupp - 14-7-2018 at 01:57 AM

Also handy for a UAV AAR eventually...

unicorn - 14-7-2018 at 05:08 PM

Quote: Originally posted by Mupp  
Also handy for a UAV AAR eventually...

Both tanking to and tanking from UAVs

Wolftrap - 14-7-2018 at 08:13 PM

Quote: Originally posted by unicorn  

Yea. I was not really aware of this or I forgot ... Not much COTS left in the actual aircraft structure in this low risk COTS procurement!


Structure & Changes Credit: Boeing Concept
S1 | Revised wing leading-edge slat configuration
S2 | 767-300 wing with center-section fuel
S3 | 767-200 fuselage with modified Section 41 for aerial-refueling receptacle
S4 | Strengthened 767-300 landing gear and beam support fittings
S5 | Reinforced fuselage-body frame chords
S6 | 767-400 empennage and Section 48

bug2 - 18-7-2018 at 10:11 PM

FARNBOROUGH: New helicopter refuelling trials to boost A400M

18 July, 2018 SOURCE: BY: Craig Hoyle Farnborough

Airbus Defence & Space will launch flight tests in the first quarter of next year to prove the ability of its A400M tactical transport to refuel helicopters in flight.

Previous tests involving an Airbus Helicopters H225M exposed stability issues for the rotorcraft while it was operating near the Atlas, with the 90ft length of its refuelling hose also bringing it too close to the airlifter's tail.

Successful windtunnel testing has already been conducted using an updated hose design produced by Cobham. Housed within the same under-wing refuelling pod, this has an increased length of 120ft, with the use of a thinner hose to result in a slower rate of fuel flow.

The earlier problems with clearing the A400M for helicopter refuelling contributed to decisions by France and Germany to each order a small number of Lockheed Martin KC-130J tankers.

"The next test will be done with a pod and aircraft in the first quarter of 2019," says head of military aircraft Fernando Alonso.

The activity will involve either an H225M or a Leonardo Helicopters AW101.

Meanwhile, Airbus and UK personnel recently advanced air-to-air refuelling trials in Spain involving a "Grizzly" test aircraft and a Royal Air Force A330 Voyager, with the Atlas receiving fuel "over a wide range of altitudes and air speeds".

Elsewhere, the A400M programme is also advancing on a permanent solution for a propeller gearbox (PGB) issue which has affected its Europrop International TP400-D6 engine.

Alonso says an interim truncated plug fix for the PGB has already been installed on all in-service aircraft, and that a permanent, "Pack 2" update developed by EPI and Avio has been certified following extended bench testing.

He says discussions are ongoing to determine when the update will be introduced to new-build aircraft, and that the interim solution is performing well in service.

bug2 - 19-7-2018 at 10:22 PM

Farnborough 2018: Singapore expands digital technology partnerships

Jon Grevatt, Bangkok - IHS Jane's Defence Industry

18 July 2018

Airbus and Singapore’s Defence Science and Technology Agency will look to ‘3D-print’ spare parts for Singapore’s new Airbus A330-200 Multi-Role Tanker Transport aircraft. Source: Airbus

Rolls-Royce and Airbus have announced collaborative projects with Singapore’s Defence Science and Technology Agency (DSTA), with both programmes looking to optimise digital technologies in enhancing the maintenance of Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) aircraft.

On 18 July at the 2018 Farnborough International Airshow in the United Kingdom, Rolls-Royce said its new accord with the DSTA will boost the support of engines on board RSAF aircraft while Airbus said its implementation agreement with DSTA will support the RSAF’s new fleet of Airbus A330-200 Multi-Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) aircraft.

Rolls-Royce said its memorandum of understanding with the DSTA will focus on using data analytics and digital twin systems, which integrate artificial intelligence, machine learning, and software analytics, in improving the availability and performance of aero-engines fitted onto RSAF aircraft.

“Rolls-Royce supports an extensive and diverse fleet of aircraft, which provides a data source to dive deeper and generate insights on aircraft engine performance for defence,” said DSTA Chief Executive Tan Peng Yam. “Partnering Rolls-Royce to co-develop data-driven digital solutions will boost DSTA’s efforts in enhancing the efficiency of aircraft maintenance and operations.

Airbus said under the terms of its implementation agreement with the DSTA, which follows the signing of a preliminary digital-technology accord in late June, the two sides will develop capability in the 3D printing of spare parts for the A330 MRTT aircraft. In addition, the two sides will also expand co-operation on data analytics.

Head of military aircraft services at Airbus Defence and Space, Stephan Miegel, said, “Following this first agreement on 3D printing, we have further agreed to collaborate on data analytics for predictive maintenance.”

Singapore ordered six A330 MRTT aircraft in 2014. In its statement, Airbus said the first of these aircraft will be delivered to Singapore in the coming months.

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bug2 - 31-7-2018 at 03:31 PM

IAI CEO Comes Out Swinging Over KC-46, US FMF Money

It began in low voices behind closed doors but some days ago the battle for US military aid turned to open war. The first skirmish is being fought over the Israeli Air Force's (IAF) advanced aerial refueling aircraft meant to replace its aging converted Boeing 707s.

By Arie Egozi

on July 30, 2018 at 1:43 PM

KC-46 refuels F-35; artists rendering

It began in low voices behind closed doors but some days ago the battle for US military aid turned to open war.

The first skirmish is being fought over the Israeli Air Force’s (IAF) advanced aerial refueling aircraft meant to replace its aging converted Boeing 707s.

Until some months ago there were two options on the table: the Boeing KC-46A and Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) converted Boeing 767s. IAI was confident that its offer would be evaluated seriously, especially in light of the delays to the KC-46. But this confidence was destroyed when IAI learned that the IAF is locked on buying the KC-46A.

IAI was shocked, but the they initially kept their reaction behind closed doors. This changed when I met with Joseph Weiss, president and CEO of IAI in his office. Weiss spelled out all his anger and frustration when i asked him if the company is in the competition for the new aerial refueling aircraft

“We are not. We have not been given a chance to compete in spite of the fact that we can supply the best cost-effective solution. It is very strange that the Israeli air force ignores our proposal. The Ministry of Defense has not even begun a dialogue with us on our proposal. That is wrong, very wrong.

We only ask for a fair chance to compete”

Weiss will soon end his office as president and CEO of Israel’s largest aerospace industry, and it was obvious that he felt more free to go public.

IAI has been offering converted 767 for special missions, including aerial refueling, for years. In 2010, the Bedek division of IAI delivered a converted B767-200ER (Extended Range) to the Colombian Air Force (CAF). The aircraft was converted to a Multi-Mission Tanker Transport (MMTT) configuration for the Colombian government and the end-user, the Colombian Air Force.

According to IAI, its 767 conversion offers four possible options for the air refueling capability: flying boom; hose & drogue; hose & drogue and three points combi-hose & drogue plus flying boom, and Fly-By-Wire (FBW) Boom, Remote Aerial Refueling Operator (RARO) station and upgraded avionics.

Sources that asked not to be identified say that the KC-46 A is the optimal solution for the IAF.

This frontal attack by Weiss reflects a wider concern among the Israeli defense and aerospace companies. These companies say that the diminishing percent of the FMF grants that can be exchanged to Israeli Shekels , will hit them in the worst spot. “The fact that U.S $ will be available and less local currency, will force the Ministry of Defense to buy almost only U.S-made systems. This is the direct effect but not a less crucial one is the decreasing R&D budget that this situation will cause,” says Weiss.

Israel has been for many years the largest recipient of U.S. foreign assistance since World War II. In the last 10 years the U.S foreign military funding (FMF) to Israel totaled $31 billion.

With the new FMF Memorandum of Understanding , the sum the government will have to buy from Israeli companies will decrease gradually and vanish in 2024.

The companies fear that without that money, the Ministry of Defense buy directly from U.S companies. That will harm the local defense industries and force them to lay off employees, slash R&D budgets and further reduce their ability to compete with the American manufacturer.

Some observers, including opponents of U.S. aid to Israel, argue that U.S. assistance to Israel supports Israeli arms purchases without providing sufficient scrutiny of controversial Israeli military actions.

While Weiss targets the tanker program, other Israeli companies have started to get ready to cope with the new situation.

Some, like Elbit Systems, have very active U.S subsidiaries.

Others like IAI have US subsidiaries but, so far, they have not proven their ability to compensate for the new reality.

A few months ago IAI said that it is changing its activity pattern in the U.S market to better deal with the changing conditions and especially with the new Foreign Military Financing (FMF) agreement with the U.S. “We are reorganizing our activities in the U.S to be ready for the changes in the market,” Weiss told me.

IAI currently operates in the U.S through its local companies, IAI North America, Stark Aerospace and ELTA U.S. “We are in the process of building a new strategy for our operations in the U.S. It will be based on proxy companies that will have U.S boards and will act separately from our other activities,” Weiss said.

He added that IAI is now evaluating some opportunities to purchase local American companies that could serve as “proxy” companies to allow IAI to increase its sales in the U.S market.

Now with the aerial refueling deal slipping out of IAI’s hands, the other Israeli companies are beginning to understand just how tough the new reality is going to be.

Efforts to get comment from the Defense Ministry and IAF met with standard responses: “The process is still on. No official decision has been made.”

unicorn - 1-8-2018 at 03:26 PM

Anyone who is surprised that US FMS and financial Defence aid is going to be tied to buying US gear under a Trump Administration is obviously delusional and hasn't been keeping up with current events.

bug2 - 1-8-2018 at 05:05 PM

The Israeli manufacturers are more than aware of's a MAJOR concern for the Defence Industry, ESPECIALLY with the range and quantity of new production imminent including, but not limited to:

- Production of EITAN 8x8 APC/IFV
- MERKAVA 5 MBT development and production
- Main production of ATMOS 2000 8x8 SPG
- Ditto DAVID's SLING missile system
- Ditto ARROW 3
- Various UAV's and UCAV's
- And a mass of on-going R&D that the US Companies will be desperate to lead or participate in.

The obvious spin-off could be nothing is left as a genuine Israeli-only production capability..........

ARH - 1-8-2018 at 06:01 PM

I guess that's the catch when they're so heavily reliant on a non-Israeli only defence budget.

bug2 - 14-9-2018 at 08:35 PM

Europe urged to provide more aerial refuelling capacity

Brooks Tigner, Brussels - IHS Jane's Defence Weekly

13 September 2018

Domecq has warned of a continued European tanker shortage if more MRTTs (pictured) and A400M refuelling kits are not purchased. Source: Dutch MoD

More nations need to join Europe’s Multi-Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) programme and to buy many more refuelling kits for the A400M if the region is to avoid a 30% gap in its air-to-air refuelling needs in the coming years, European military planners and defence policy officials said.

“Slowly we are catching up with the United States, but we are not there yet,” Jorge Domecq, chief executive of the European Defence Agency (EDA), told an aerial refuelling conference organised by his agency in Brussels on 12 September. “We will be 40 tankers short in 2025 if we don’t all step up our efforts.”

Currently, five nations have signed up to the EDA-initiated MRTT programme to cover the operational cost with specific numbers of annual flying hours: Belgium (1,000), Germany (5,500), Luxembourg (200), Netherlands (2,000), and Norway (100).

Their collective commitment rests on an order of eight A330 MRTTs, with an option to buy three more that depends on more countries joining the programme. The fleet will be collectively owned and based at Eindhoven, the Netherlands, and Cologne-Wahn, Germany.

According to sources at the conference, three countries – the Czech Republic, Sweden, and Spain – are considering the MRTT, although nobody is placing any firm bets that they will join the programme.

“There is lobbying within the Czech [Ministry of Defence] – there’s a letter on the deputy minister’s desk arguing to join the MRTT – but money is tight and there are competing pet projects of the other services,” one participant told Jane’s at the conference. “If they sign up, it would probably be for a modest number of [operational] hours.”

As for Spain, “it is sitting on the fence – desiring the MRTT’s cost advantages [since the operating cost for all falls with each additional nation], but wanting the capability kept on its territory,” one EU official said.

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bug2 - 21-9-2018 at 08:48 PM

Skunk Works Talks Stealthy Aircraft Option For KC-Z

Sep 19, 2018

Steve Trimble | Aerospace Daily & Defense Report

MQ-25A concept: Lockheed Martin

A pure aerial tanker with a stealthy profile and the ability to refuel combat aircraft within defended airspace has emerged as a second option developed by Lockheed Martin’s advanced development arm for the U.S. Air Force’s KC-Z requirement.

The latest Skunk Works concept is likened to Lockheed’s losing proposal for the US Navy’s MQ-25 tanker program, but with two major differences.

“Imagine MQ-25 with that [improved stealthy] signature ability and perhaps longer legs,” says Jack O’Banion, vice president of strategy at Skunk Works.

In Lockheed’s view, a Boeing KC-46 flying just outside defended airspace could refuel multiple KC-Z aircraft, which would then penetrate into a combat area, using its reduced radar signature to survive. The Lockheed KC-Z also would use an unconventional refueling approach that preserves the aircraft’s stealthy profile, but O’Banion declines to elaborate.

“There are other ways of transferring the fuel where the receiver hardware is essentially the same, but what happens between two airplanes is where we’re looking at changing things up,” O’Banion says.

The new concept is Lockheed’s second option developed for KC-Z. Two years ago the company unveiled a hybrid wing body designed for both refueling and air-drop missions. As the Air Force settles on the requirements for KC-Z, Lockheed could offer one or the other.

“We wanted to make sure that we were materially communicating to [Air Mobility Command] that full range of possibilities,” O’Banion says. “And then as AMC considers which track they want to head down they’ve got a position that maximizes their level of understanding.”

The latest concept was developed in response to Skunk Works’ analysis of new threats. Some analysts consider new Chinese weapons, such as the PL-XX missile, as focused on shooting down command-and-control aircraft and tankers at long range, making it impossible for more stealthy aircraft, such as fighters and bombers, to perform their mission.

“They’re trying to find out where are there integrating nodes in our force structure that they can attack, whether it’s the overhead [satellites], or AWACS or J-Stars or tankers,” O’Banion says. “One of the easiest ways to defeat that strategy is dispersement, so if I can disperse the fuel … it’s harder to defeat the ability to fuel my assets and stay in the fight.”

bug2 - 22-9-2018 at 06:07 PM

France wants to buy Airbus tankers sooner

By: Pierre Tran   10 hours ago

An Airbus A330 Multi Role Tanker Transport aircraft refuels a fighter jet. France renewed a pledge to speed up by two years delivery of 12 Airbus A330 jets for the French Air Force by 2023.(Airbus)

PARIS — France renewed a pledge to speed up by two years delivery of 12 Airbus A330 multirole transport tanker jets for the French Air Force by 2023.

“At the ministerial investment committee, the Direction Générale de l’Armement received the mission to accelerate the delivery of the A330 MRTT Phénix,” the armed forces ministry said in a Sept. 20 statement.

A 12-strong fleet of the A330 MRTT by 2023 brings forward delivery of the air tankers by two years, the ministry said. A further three units will be ordered to bring the total fleet to 15 in the following years, the ministry added.

No dates were given for a contract for the A330 MRTT or the value of the planned order. No date was set for a further batch of three more units.

That boost for inflight refuelling was among the equipment modernization measures included in the 2019-2025 military budget law, formally signed by French president Emmanuel Macron just before an official garden party on July 13.

The French Air Force has long lobbied for renewing the aerial capability, as the present aging tanker fleet is a key element in the airborne nuclear deterrent. French air operations in allied operations in the sub-Saharan Sahel region and the Middle East rely heavily on U.S. air tankers.

The A330 MRTT will replace a mixed fleet of C-135FR and KC-135R tankers — some of which are close to 60 years old — and A310 and A340 strategic troop and transport aircraft. The A330 MRTT is a military conversion of the Airbus A330 airliner.

bug2 - 28-9-2018 at 08:27 PM

France receives first Phénix tanker-transport aircraft

Gareth Jennings, London - IHS Jane's Defence Weekly

28 September 2018

The French Air Force (Armée de l'Air: AdlA) has received into service the first of an expected 12 Airbus Defence and Space (DS) A330-200 Multi-Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) aircraft.

One of the nine Phénix aircraft currently under contract arrived at its future-home station of Airbase 125 at Istres-Le Tubé on 27 September. The remaining eight aircraft and a further three that are expected to be ordered are all due to be delivered to the AdlA by 2023.

Set to replace the AdlA's Boeing KC-135R and C-135FR tankers, as well as the Airbus A340 and A310 passenger transports, the Phénix is powered by Rolls-Royce Trent 700 engines and equipped with a combination of the Airbus Refuelling Boom System (ARBS) and underwing hose-and-drogue refuelling pods.

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bug2 - 17-10-2018 at 09:56 AM

Phénix Takes Flight

(Source: French Air Force; issued Oct 12, 2018)

The French Air Force’s first Airbus A330 tanker takes off to begin its operational trials, due to be completed in late 2019 when it is due to attain its IOC. France plans to order 12, with another three to follow after 2025. (FR AF photo)

Fifty-five years after the arrival of the first Boeing C135 tanker aircraft, the A330 Phoenix on Friday, October 12, took off from Istres air base on its first flight after having officially joined the Air Force.

Piloted by a crew of the MRTT team of the Military Aviation Expertise Center (CEAM), the new tanker aircraft made a first flight of flight refueling trial with the aircraft of the 2/2 "Côte-d'Or" Calibration Squadron.

This first flight marks the beginning of the experimental and test campaign that will allow the aircraft to be reach initial operational capability within a year. Integrated into the 31st EARTS (strategic air refueling squadron), the trial team will perform many test flights to qualify the aircraft for all the missions it will carry out. The first phase will be dedicated to the air refueling missions of the various Air Force aircraft and those of our allies, in multiple configurations, by day or night and in all weathers.

Once the refueling capabilities are validated, the aircraft’s trials will be expanded to include strategic cargo and personnel transport and medical evacuation. The Phénix, so named by the Air Force as a symbol of the aircraft capable of "reborning" any aircraft it refuels in flight, will ultimately replace the Air Force’s entire fleet of strategic aircraft (C135, A310 and A340) which are now used for long-range missions.

Operated by the strategic air forces, the fleet of 12 aircraft (15 after 2025) will be stationed at the 125 Istres air base, whose role as our "logistics hub" will be increased tenfold.

Given that the A330 Phoenix is one and a half times larger than the C135, the entire infrastructure of Air Base 125 has had to be reviewed. A first maintenance hangar, a parking lot and new air traffic routes were thus created at the air base for the reception and implementation of the aircraft.

This site, the largest currently in terms of investments for the Ministry of the Armed Forces, will continue to accommodate 12 aircraft by 2023. In addition to two other maintenance hangars, Istres will have a new terminal for personnel and logistics transport missions which are currently carried out by the 1/60 "Estérel" transport squadron from Roissy Charles-de-Gaulle airport.


bug2 - 28-11-2018 at 09:33 AM

China Develops Y-20 Variants to Perform Aerial Refueling Missions: Military Insider

(Source: Global Times; published Nov 26, 2018)

China is developing a tanker variant of its new Y-20 large transport aircraft as its twin-engined HU-6s do not have enough fuel capacity and its Russian Il-78MDs are too few to meet its growing requirements. (China MoD photo)

China is modifying its domestically made strategic transport aircraft Y-20 to take on new missions like aerial refueling, a military insider said.

A tanker variant for the Y-20 is now under development, the expert who is familiar with the matter, told the Global Times on Sunday on the condition of anonymity.

There were a series of reports over the past week, which claimed to have found a prototype for an aerial refueling version of the Y-20 in a commercial satellite photo in Yanliang Airport in Xi'an, capital of Northwest China's Shaanxi Province.

China is in urgent need of an aerial refueling tanker that has a larger fuel capacity than the HU-6, a tanker developed from the H-6 bomber, for its air force to become a strategic one, said the expert, noting that aerial refueling enables a fighter jet to fly much farther without landing and reach more distant targets.

The J-20, China's most advanced stealth fighter jet, is able to receive aerial refueling, China Central Television (CCTV) reported earlier this month.

Although China also operates a few Russian II-78 tankers, which are much larger than the HU-6, Russia was reluctant to sell more at a reasonable price, leading China to decide to develop its own large tanker, the expert said.

China's Y-20, a domestically made 200 ton-class large multi-purpose transport aircraft, is of similar size to the Russian Il-76 transport aircraft, on which the Il-78 is based, he said.

The aircraft began services in the People's Liberation Army Air Force in 2016, the Xinhua News Agency reported.

The fact that the Y-20 is domestically built means that Chinese developers can make alterations relatively easy and makes it a platform to develop more variants, the expert said.

China is experienced in making variants from transport aircraft in the past, reports said.

China modified the Y-9 transport aircraft into an early warning plane, patrol aircraft and anti-submarine aircraft, according to a CCTV report on Saturday.

The expert noted that it is also possible that China could make more Y-20 variants, noting that an early warning aircraft might be the most feasible one given the Y-20's size and endurance.


bug2 - 7-12-2018 at 10:24 PM

Japan signs for second KC-46A tanker

Gareth Jennings, London - Jane's Defence Weekly

07 December 2018

A pair of Boeing KC-46A Pegasus tanker aircraft parked at Paine Field near Seattle. Japan is the first export customer, having now signed for two aircraft. Source: IHS Markit/Gareth Jennings

Japan has signed for the second of four Boeing KC-46A Pegasus tanker aircraft it plans to field from 2020.

A Foreign Military Sale (FMS) contract for a single aircraft for Japan was announced by the US Department of Defense (DoD) on 6 December, following the award of the first aircraft in December 2017. While that first award included support and was valued at USD279 million, this latest contract is for the aircraft only and is valued at USD159 million.

The first KC-46A is due to be delivered to the Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF) in 2020, with this second aircraft to follow by 30 June 2021. However, with delays to Boeing's programme to deliver up to 179 KC-46As to the US Air Force (USAF), this schedule might be pushed back.

Japan selected the KC-46A under its KC-X aerial refuelling competition in October 2015. The JASDF is looking to acquire four new tankers to augment its current fleet of four Boeing KC-767J platforms, with the total value of the procurement expected to be USD1.9 billion.

The KC-46A is a 767-2C provisioned freighter with a 767-400 flight deck that features the Rockwell Collins large-format displays of the 787 airliner. Boeing has highlighted the almost tactical nature of its aircraft, with it being deployed 'closer to the fight' to better support expeditionary operations; being fitted with ballistic armour in the cockpit, passenger cabin, and fuel tanks; electro-magnetic pulse hardening; and nuclear, biological, and chemical protection.

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bug2 - 8-12-2018 at 02:28 PM

Lockheed Tie-Up Gives Airbus Tanker A Second Chance at U.S. Market

Dec 7, 2018 Lee Hudson, Steve Trimble and Tony Osborne | Aviation Week & Space Technology

A New Approach for U.S. Tanker Work

Nearly eight years after Boeing snatched away the lucrative U.S. Air Force KC-X tanker contract from Airbus, the European airframer is eyeing another chance to offer its internationally successful A330 Multi-Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) to the U.S. customer.

By teaming up with Lockheed Martin, Airbus believes an urgent Pentagon demand for contractor-supplied aerial refueling—driven in part by Boeing’s KC-46 delays—could help position it for the next wave of U.S. and international tanker procurements. Airbus and Lockheed will explore growing demands for U.S. military aerial refueling and “conceptualize” a next-generation tanker, the companies announced Dec. 4.

The move marks the next phase in the long-running tanker aircraft competition, as three of the biggest aerospace companies fight for a key market.

- A new approach for U.S. tanker work
- U.S. Transcom taps industry to help with tanker shortfall

Lockheed sees the partnership as a chance to swipe at Boeing, to which it lost three major competitions in a row—the MQ-25 unmanned aerial refueler, UH-1 Huey helicopter and T-X next-generation training aircraft—while Airbus looks to revive its efforts to plug the MRTT into the U.S. market.

Lockheed already delivers C-130J Hercules-based aerial refueling aircraft to Air Force Special Operations and the Marine Corps. It has also unveiled concepts for next-generation airlifters and tankers, including manned and unmanned versions for a planned follow-on tanker development program for the Air Force called KC-Z.

Boeing’s ongoing KC-46 development issues have prompted competitors to sit up and take notice. The Chicago-based airframer has dozens of fully and partially assembled KC-46As awaiting delivery, but the Air Force continues to refuse them in a dispute over lingering deficiencies. As the technical errors and delays have mounted, Boeing has reported losses of more than $3.5 billion on the fixed-price development and production program.

Airbus has delivered MRTTs to three new customers during 2018, including France, Singapore and South Korea. Credit: Airbus Defense & Space

However, deliveries of the Boeing tanker are said to be imminent, with recent KC-46 development aircraft undertaking proving flights to overseas bases, including in Japan and Germany, in preparation for service entry. Even if delivery occurs by year-end, it will be with little fanfare. The problems have left the Air Force with a bitter taste as it seeks a long-term tanker force expansion. It wants 14 new tanker squadrons by 2030 but has yet to secure funding.

The Airbus-Lockheed tie-up has roots in a U.S. Transportation Command (Transcom) solicitation released in June that called for industry help to stem a U.S. aerial refueling capability shortfall and outline how to generate a commercial tanker capability.

During a September industry day at Scott AFB, Illinois, that attracted manufacturers and operators alike, Transcom officials said as many as 20,000-30,000 refueler flight hours are not being supported due to shortfalls.

If their plan gets funding—as Transcom officials are positive it will—it calls for industry to provide 7,000 hr. annually from the outset, “starting small and growing,” say officials.

The Transcom requirements call for a platform capable of carrying a minimum 50,000 lb. of fuel for 1,500 mi., performing the mission day or night and delivering fuel by boom, hose-and-drogue or both. It would have to support tanking operations at 10,000-35,000 ft. which would appear to rule out turboprop-powered aircraft such as the KC-130 Hercules.

Airbus is already familiar with aerial refueling through commercial arrangements. It is part of the AirTanker consortium that provides
aerial refueling and transport services to the British Royal Air Force with the A330 MRTT. But while the AirTanker service is a bespoke private finance initiative, Airbus and Lockheed Martin will study a “fee-for-
service structure.”

The Pentagon is already making use of commercial aerial refueling now. Omega Aerial Refueling Services supports Navy and Marine Corps training. But Transcom notes the largest demand will likely come from receptacle-equipped platforms requiring boom-equipped tankers, few of which are commercially available, potentially opening the market to new-build types such as the A330.

Airbus originally teamed with Northrop Grumman to offer the A330 MRTT to the Air Force as the KC-45, clinching the KC-X contract in 2008. The decision was overturned by the Government Accounting Office after Boeing filed a protest. Northrop withdrew from the follow-up competition, and the KC-45 lost to Boeing’s KC-46 for the $4.9 billion award in 2011. The A330 MRTT has since secured export orders from 12 countries, beating the KC-46 everywhere except Japan.

The A330 MRTT is a derivative of the A330-200 widebody airliner. Emerging as green airframes, they are flown to Spain for conversion to the MRTT standard and kitted out with the refueling and mission systems required by customers. Most MRTTs have been new-build, but two Australian aircraft have been converted from secondhand passenger A330s.

bug2 - 13-12-2018 at 10:25 PM

France Orders Three More Airbus A330 MRTT Tankers

(Source: Airbus Defence and Space; issued Dec 13, 2018)

France has ordered the final three Airbus Multi Role Tanker Transport aircraft, which was originally planned for award after 2023, brining the number of aircraft on order to 12. Pictured here is the first MRTT delivered to the French Air Force. (Airbus photo)

MADRID --- Airbus Defence and Space has received a firm order from the French Defence Procurement Agency (DGA) for a further three A330 MRTT Multi-Role Tanker Transport aircraft.

The aircraft, known as Phénix in French service, constitute the third and final tranche of the multi-year contract for 12 A330 MRTTs signed by the French Ministry of Defence in 2014.

The first of the fleet was formally handed over in October and the remainder will be delivered by the end of 2023 under an accelerated timescale requested by France.

In French service the A330 MRTT will be powered by Rolls-Royce Trent 700 engines and equipped with a combination of the Airbus Refuelling Boom System and underwing hose-and-drogue refuelling pods. The aircraft can be configured in a variety of layouts carrying up to 272 passengers as well as medevac arrangements including the French MORPHEE intensive care module carrying up to ten patients as well as 88 passengers.

The combat-proven A330 MRTT has been ordered by 12 nations which have now placed firm orders for 60 aircraft, of which 34 have been delivered.

The attached photo shows the first delivered Phénix.


bug2 - 14-12-2018 at 02:10 PM

Omega to compete for US Air Force commercial tanker service


Omega Aerial Refueling Services is considering buying new aircraft and pulling old ones out of storage in order to meet the US Air Force's interest in adding commercial tanker services.

Omega's stated interest in expanding its fleet of aircraft comes after Lockheed Martin and Airbus announced on 4 December that they would team up to offer tanker services to the US Department of Defense.

Both companies are responding to a June request for information from the United States Transportation Command (USTRANSCOM), which stated that it had 20,000-30,000h per year that is not being supported by aerial refuelling service.

The companies are also preparing to ramp up their offerings in response to US Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson's plan to add 14 more air tanker squadrons to the service's inventory, and delivery delays to Boeing's 767-based KC-46A Pegasus – the replacement for the air force's ageing Boeing KC-135 fleet.

"We are very much interested in bringing our expertise to that problem, and expect to go ahead and either bid or partner once the solicitation comes out," says Omega president Bill Schaefer.

Omega KDC-10 refuelling F-35

Schaefer says he believes that USTRANSCOM's identified 20,000-30,000h need would require between 17 and 20 tankers to fulfil. In response, Omega is looking at expanding its fleet beyond its current two Boeing KC-707s and one McDonnell Douglas KDC-10.

The company would initially bring into service KC-707s and KDC-10s, which are currently sitting in storage. However, to meet the command's need for boom refuelling – its aircraft are currently only equipped with a hose-and-drogue capability – the firm is also looking at acquiring additional tankers.

Omega has provided commercial aerial refuelling services to the US Navy and US Marine Corps for the past 18 years. Typically, those missions include refuelling for non-combat flights over the continental USA, exercises or when aircraft are being repositioned overseas.

However, Schaefer cautions that adding tanker capacity to the USAF will take time. “This is something you're not going to start on day one," he says. "The air force would have to grow into [it]."

That is a point acknowledged by USTRANSCOM, which said in its June notice that it initially only wants 7,000h of capacity provided by commercial firms per year. The US government expects its experiment to be fully funded, but says it is uncertain if the commercial services contract will be a long-term effort, or a short-term solution.

For its part, Lockheed sees a USTRANSCOM commercial service contract as a potential entry point into a quickly expanding aerial refuelling market in the USA. This sector has long been dominated by Boeing, with the KC-135, KC-10 and KC-46A, although Lockheed notes that since 1960, it has delivered hundreds of KC-130s to the USMC, USAF and international customers.

"A lot of people don't realise that [the KC-130] is fully capable of refuelling everything from slow-moving helicopters up through fighter aircraft," says Larry Gallogly, Lockheed Martin Aeronautics' business development director of USAF mobility programmes. "We have an extensive level of experience in that regard."

As part of its teaming arrangement with Airbus Defence & Space, Lockheed plans to put the European company's A330-based multi-role tanker transport at the heart of its bids. It will bring to the partnership its combat aircraft experience, including survivability and multi-domain command and control technologies, says Gallogly.

"It can range from anything from standard defensive systems, large aircraft infrared countermeasures, radar warning receivers, to masking of the heat source on the engines," he says. "For the tankers to be able to hold their ground – in other words, to operate at the same distance from the battlefield they operate today – they will have to have increased protective measures as the threat rings [from an adversary's defences] get larger and larger.”

Airbus and Lockheed have also pledged to begin "conceptualising the tanker of the future", in an apparent nod to the USAF's interest in developing a stealth tanker, which could refuel advanced fighters such as the Lockheed F-22 and F-35 within hostile airspace.

Any stealth tanker development would come at the behest of the USAF, Gallogly notes.

"We certainly have a lot of expertise in that area, but it will be driven by the customer's requirements. They will determine how far along the stealth spectrum they want to go, and we can provide those capabilities."

bug2 - 19-12-2018 at 08:14 PM

KC-46 Faces Uncertain Future

Dec 19, 2018 Lee Hudson and Tony Osborne | Aviation Week & Space Technology

Tanker Tribulations

Boeing hopes to begin 2019 with the company’s KC-46 tanker program firmly back on track after wrangling with technical deficiencies and cost overruns that have beset the aircraft. Delivery of the first unit—an important milestone for the global transport market—is keenly anticipated.

In December, U.S. Air Force acquisition executive Will Roper met with Leanne Caret, Boeing Defense Space and Security president, to reach an agreement on the troubled aerial refueling tanker program that includes both hardware and software fixes.

The service downgraded two Category 1 deficiencies for the new tanker Nov. 7 following a deficiency review board. These defects are associated with the centerline drogue system and feedback to the operator on inputs into the boom, service spokeswoman Capt. Hope Cronin confirms to Aviation Week.

- Airbus and Lockheed team up for tanker work
- KC-390 faces delays following landing accident

“There are three remaining Cat. 1 deficiency reports in the KC-46 program; two on the Remote Vision System (RVS) and one on the stiffness of the boom,” says Cronin.

The RVS deficiencies are especially troublesome because the service says the system does not enable safe and effective boom and drogue aerial refueling. Performing missions with the current RVS may increase risk of mid-air collisions, boom strikes, probe loss and damage. This defect could be particularly costly for stealth aircraft such as the B-2 bomber, F-22 or F-35 fighters if the boom scrapes low-observable stealth coatings.

Boom stiffness poses a problem for receiver pilots because in certain flight conditions they have trouble generating enough thrust to complete a connection with the refueling aircraft.

A KC-46A Pegasus aerial refueling aircraft connects with an F-15 Strike Eagle test aircraft from Eglin AFB, Florida, as part of KC-46 Phase II receiver certification testing. Credit: Master Sgt. Michael Jackson/U.S. Air Force

Boeing acknowledges that the Cat. 1 deficiency downgrades are a positive step forward for the program. “To date, we have completed more than 3,700 flight hours and delivered more than 4 million lb. of fuel to the receiver aircraft,” company spokeswoman Kelly Kaplan tells Aviation Week.

The company is under contract for 52 KC-46 tankers. On Sept. 10, 2018, the Air Force awarded Boeing a $2.9 billion contract modification for the fourth lot of KC-46As. The airframer received its first two production lots for seven and 12 aircraft in August 2016. The third lot for 15 aircraft was awarded in January 2017. Boeing has reported losses of more than $3.5 billion on the fixed-price development and production program.

In 2018, Boeing held steady in the overall share of the Western-manufactured tanker and transport aircraft market, according to Aviation Week projections for 2018-23. It is projected to deliver 20%, or 85 units, of all the Western-built tanker and transport aircraft, behind Airbus at 34% and Lockheed Martin at 27%.

Meanwhile, Pentagon acquisition executive Ellen Lord visited Virgin Orbit in early December because the company works with the Defense Innovation Unit, an office that focuses on attracting nontraditional companies to work on projects in space. The U.S. Air Force is assessing ways to expand cargo and transportation operations past the edge of the atmosphere within the next decade. Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein asked the head of Air Mobility Command to explore space launch concepts. Virgin Orbit President/CEO Dan Hart met with top Air Force officials to discuss the use of LauncherOne as a national security launch provider. Potentially, Virgin could provide a Boeing 747 or similar aircraft for Pentagon use with a derivative of the LauncherOne system. Hart says Virgin Orbit could work with the Air Force on technology for rapid point-to-point transportation.

Separately, the U.S. Congress mandated a mobility capabilities and requirements study in the Fiscal 2018 National Defense Authorization Act. The Pentagon anticipates delivering the classified results of the study to lawmakers before the end of 2018.

Source: Aviation Week Military Fleet & MRO Forecast 2019. All numbers and percentages rounded.

The study will include the estimated number of airlift aircraft, tanker aircraft and sealift ships needed to meet combatant commander requirements. Also, the document will include an assessment of the implications of operating commercial airlift aircraft in contested areas.

The Pentagon kicked off the study in March and the effort is co-led by U.S. Transportation Command’s (Transcom) Joint Distribution Process Analysis Center and the Defense Department’s Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation office, in consultation with the joint staff. The combatant commands, military services and the offices of the Defense and Transportation departments also provided feedback, Transcom spokesman Army Maj. Dave Dunn tells Aviation Week.

Airbus and Lockheed have identified their own gap in the market for aerial tankers exacerbated by delays to KC-46 deliveries. The companies announced Dec. 4 that they will team up to offer the A330 Multi-Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) to Transcom for contractor-supplied aerial refueling.

The partnership is a win-win for both companies because it allows Airbus to plug its product in the U.S., while Lockheed is bouncing back from losing three major competitions to Boeing: the MQ-25 unmanned aerial refueler, UH-1 Huey helicopter and T-X next-generation training aircraft.

The MRTT is popular globally as more nations join the Netherlands-led Multi-Role Tanker Transport Fleet (MMF). Growing from two aircraft backed by the Netherlands and Luxembourg, MMF grew to eight aircraft with the addition of Belgium, Germany and Norway at the end of 2017. During 2018, Airbus delivered A330 MRTTs to France and Singapore while, at press time, the first aircraft for South Korea’s air force was undergoing delivery checks in that country prior to handover. France placed an order in December for three A330 MRTTs, completing a multi-year contract for a total of 12 aircraft.

Airbus has also been pressing ahead with its so-called Smart Tanker initiatives to widen the capabilities of the aircraft beyond transport and aerial refueling. And the company has performed tests with an automated refueling system that automatically positions the refueling boom into a pre-contact position over the receptacle of the receiver aircraft. Airbus says this could speed up refueling procedures and reduce workload for boom operators.

The company is hoping to put the A400M’s difficult gestation behind it following a new contract with development partners expected in early 2019. The amendment will allow the company to realign the road map for developing the airlifter’s tactical capabilities and reduce the build rate, giving Airbus more time to find export customers. Most of the partner nations have now taken delivery of aircraft, and air forces are rapidly building up experience and flying hours.

Airbus is still working on long-running issues including concerns about paratroop crossover—the risk of troops colliding if they jump from the two paratroop doors at the same time—and helicopter aerial refueling, which Airbus says it is close to resolving with flight tests of longer refueling hoses planned for early 2019. The UK is the fleet leader, having taken delivery of 20 of its planned 22 aircraft. Nations still to take delivery include Belgium and Luxembourg.

Despite some initially promising progress and declaring an initial operating capability at the end of 2017, Embraer has had a tough year with KC-390 development. The loss of the first prototype in a landing accident at the company’s Gaviao Peixoto flight-test center in May, forced the company to suspend planned deliveries to its launch customer, the Brazilian Air Force, in 2018, pushing delivery back to the first half of 2019; the aircraft’s full operational capability is set to be declared in the fourth quarter of 2019. The aircraft had resumed flight testing just two months earlier after an in-flight incident during stall testing caused extensive damage in October 2017. The company is now using the first production aircraft to complete the flight-test campaign.

Recently, the company wrapped up troop disembarkation and cabin evacuation tests with the Brazilian military. The aircraft has also received its civil airworthiness certificates from the Brazilian regulator, ANAC.

The first export customer is likely to be Portugal, which intends to purchase five aircraft, although the contract is awaiting final approval. The aircraft could also be offered through a leasing scheme by Portuguese company SkyTech, whose plans include buying six aircraft.

Airbus is continuing production of its C295 twin-turboprop airlifter. In August, delivered the first civilian type to Kenyan operator DAC Aviation and has begun building the first C295s destined for Canada, where the type will serve in the search-and-rescue mission, replacing the de Havilland Buffalo. The Canadian C295s will differ from standard models and feature a modified landing gear sponson. Aircraft are also being prepared for delivery the United Arab Emirates, where plans are to use the platform as an armed intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance platform.

Leonardo recently performed the first flight of a new baseline configuration for its C-27J Spartan airlifter. The aircraft has been a given a new avionics suite, weather radar, radio navigation and satellite communications systems. It has also been outfitted with a Mode 5 identification-friend-or-foe function. Leonardo says the changes will allow the airlifter to operate in new airspace regulations and help reduce obsolescence.

Indonesia is still negotiating with Lockheed Martin for C-130Js, despite stating that five transporters will be delivered next year. The potential deal will be constructed as a direct commercial sale, not a Foreign Military Sale.

Japan is planning to purchase two new C-2 transport aircraft. The country allocated $400 million from its 2018 budget to acquire the aircraft developed by Kawasaki Heavy Industries. The Japan Air Self-Defense Force operates four C-2s and anticipates ordering roughly 60 aircraft in total.

Russia’s Il-112V Ilyushin light transport is anticipated to conduct its first flight in 2019. In November, the aircraft was moved from final assembly to begin preflight preparations. They will replace Antonov An-26s.

In Ukraine, Antonov, Tanqnia Aeronautics and Wahaj signed an agreement to jointly build the An-132D multipurpose transport aircraft. The aircraft is being co-developed by Antonov and King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology. Saudi Arabia owns 50% of the intellectual property invested in the design. The aircraft features Western engines, avionics and other systems. The Royal Saudi Air Force anticipates purchasing 30 aircraft, 20 for special missions and 10 for transport.

bug2 - 12-3-2019 at 03:28 PM

Air Mobility Command Looks to Future Tanker As it Begins to Receive KC-46s (excerpt)

(Source: Air Force Magazine; issued March 06, 2019)

By Brian Everstine

The Air Force is mapping out the unprecedented capabilities it will need in a next-generation tanker, laying out an aggressive timeline for the “KC-Z” while it is only just getting the KC-46 to operational status. It’s not expected at this point that the KC-Z will be stealthy, however.

Air Mobility Command boss Gen. Maryanne Miller said it will take a year to identify the capabilities it wants in the future tanker, a process that is beginning right now. These requirements will be driven by the threat, as laid out in the National Defense Strategy and USAF’s Next Generation Air Dominance future fighter system. “We’ll have a tanker that supports” NGAD, she said, though she said it’s too early to say what exactly what will mean; whether, for example, the future tanker will be autonomous.

“Our priority right now is going to be the KC-Z,” she said.

After figuring out what it must have to accomplish the future tanker mission, AMC will start an analysis of alternatives expected in three and five years, toward fielding an aircraft in the mid-2030s, said Maj. Gen. Mark Camerer, the command’s director of strategic plans, requirements, and programs.

“We’re at the very, very beginning trying to describe what the requirements will be,” Camerer said, adding that since this aircraft will be developed from scratch, it will be a “very large investment for the Air Force” and essential that it be done right.

While the specific requirements aren’t set, Miller said it looks for now as if stealth won’t be a requirement for KC-Z. While the tanker may need to get closer to the fight, no one knows how to keep a tanker stealthy once it deploys its refueling boom, so that feature isn’t likely to be required, she observed. Alternately, AMC is looking at a Navy study suggesting a “mother tanker:” a larger tanker that refuels smaller aircraft, which then go forward to refuel other platforms. However, she also called this prospect unlikely. (end of excerpt)

Click here for the full story, on the Air Force Magazine website.


bug2 - 21-3-2019 at 03:50 PM

Fill Er Up! Why it's Taken the Pentagon Nearly Two Decades to Buy a New Aerial Tanker (excerpt)

(Source: Project On Government Oversight; issued March 19, 2019)

By Mark Thompson

Cars have had backup cameras for years. Pilots have had fly-by-wire controls for even longer. So why shouldn't the airmen who have been getting down on their bellies for decades at the back end of the Air Force's aerial tankers get some of that nifty technology? That way, they can sit up in the front of the plane with their buddies and refuel warplanes remotely. (This kind of thinking is why some refer to the service as the Chair Force.)

Well, that's exactly what the Air Force is trying to do in its brand-new KC-46 Pegasus tanker with its fly-by-wire refueling boom. Unfortunately, it's not going well.

Beyond the plethora of production delays and cost overruns common to almost all Pentagon programs, the KC-46 is still having problems performing its key mission refueling other airplanes and will for years. (The snafus come at a particularly bad time for Boeing: the company's new 737 Max 8 airliners have become the subject of intense scrutiny following two crashes, one in October that killed all 189 aboard, and a second on March 10 in which all 157 onboard died.)

But it does illustrate very well, alas a peculiar Pentagon pathology: why go with the tried-and-true (aerial refueling with manually-operated booms dates back to the Truman Administration) when there is a more complicated and costly way that might work?

It also illustrates, gulp, a welter of corruption and conflicts that has led to a nearly 20-year quest to replace the Air Force’s aging tanker fleet, most of which is now eligible for AARP membership.

All kidding aside, aerial tankers are the unsung heroes of U.S. military deployments.

Basically flying gas stations, the Air Force's fleet of about 500 tankers, almost all of them KC-135s, is one of the Pentagon's most amazing marvels. Without them, U.S. warplanes, including those flown by the Navy and Marines, would be restricted to short flights over their targets, and forced to be based in war zones. The tanker fleet doesn't get a lot of love, but it should. As the boomers themselves like to say: Nobody kicks ass without tanker gas.

I've been on both ends of aerial refueling missions. Flying over southeastern Turkey, it was amazing to squat next to the boom operator as he fed fuel to F-16s flying Operation Northern Watch, the no-fly zone the U.S. and its allies imposed on Saddam Hussein's Iraq from 1997 until the U.S. invasion six years later. And I recall sitting in the jump seat of the cockpit aboard the E-4B doomsday plane the modified Boeing 747 from which a U.S. president would wage nuclear war as we gulped fuel several times during an around-the-world trip in 1998 (including one 22-hour leg).

Most of us on the flight were told to move to the front of the plane to avoid the stomach-churning porpoising that could happen as the E-4B's nose held steady during refueling, while its tail rose and fell like the marine mammal jumping above the waves. It sure beat landing for an hour or two to refuel.

Despite serving as the backbone of U.S. airpower, these lumbering beasts lack the glamour of sleek fighters and hulking bombers. The tanker humdrum mission is one reason.

And, for a relatively simple airplane that is a modified version of the commercial airliners anyone can fly on, the Air Force has had a tough time replacing them. (end of excerpt)

Click here for the full story, on the POGO website.


bug2 - 16-5-2019 at 09:00 AM

Boeing targets F-35 users for future KC-46A sales

Gareth Jennings, St Louis, MO - Jane's Defence Weekly

15 May 2019

Boeing is targeting current and future operators of the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) as it looks to secure additional customers for its KC-46A Pegasus tanker.

Boeing is looking to add to its US and Japanese customers for the KC-46A by pursuing current and future F-35 operators. (Boeing)

Speaking at the company's St Louis facility in Missouri, Matt Carreon, director of International Sales Commercial Derivative Aircraft, said that operators of the fifth-generation fighter that may be part of an international tanking consortia, but which do not have their own national assets, would be prime candidates.

"We are having discussions with [] countries that don't currently have [tanking] assets, especially F-35 customers that don't now have their own dedicated national tankers.

(102 of 797 words)

bug2 - 1-6-2019 at 01:52 PM

UAE issues formal request to buy KC-46A tanker, says Boeing

By: Mike Yeo   13 hours ago

The KC-46A Pegasus deploys the centerline boom for the first time here on Oct. 9, 2015. (John D. Parker/Boeing)

SINGAPORE The United Arab Emirates has emerged as a surprise customer for KC-46A Pegasus, having formally made a request to buy the tanker aircraft, according to manufacturer Boeing.

Speaking to reporters at a media event on the sidelines of the annual Shangri-La Dialogue regional security summit in Singapore, Jeff Shockey, Boeings vice president of global sales for defense, space and security, confirmed that the Middle Eastern kingdom had issued a letter of request for three tankers.

The UAE now joins the list of potential markets for the KC-46A, alongside other interested parties such as Indonesia, Israel, Norway, Qatar and NATO.

Japan has already joined the U.S. Air Force in selecting the KC-46, with a request for four aircraft approved by the U.S. State Department in 2016 with two having already since been contracted through the Foreign Military Sales program.

The UAEs request to buy the KC-46A is a surprise, given it currently already operates three Airbus A330 multirole tanker transports. It currently operates about 150 Lockheed Martin F-16E/F Fighting Falcon and French-built Dassault Mirage 2000 fighter jets.

It is unclear if the UAE is holding a competitive tender for additional tankers. Airbus referred Defense News to the customer when asked if the European manufacturer has received interest from the UAE about additional tankers.

bug2 - 17-6-2019 at 02:10 PM

PARIS: KC-46A makes show debut as opportunities beckon

16 June, 2019 SOURCE: BY: Garrett Reim Paris

The Boeing KC-46A tanker has made its air show debut in the static park, with an aircraft from US Air Forces 931st Refueling Wing, based at McConnell AFB, in Kansas.

The appearance marks a key milestone for the programme, which has suffered several delays, including well-publicised production issues earlier this year involving foreign object debris, which led to deliveries being halted twice the US Air Force.

Greg Waldron / FlightGlobal

The appearance of the aircraft at the show is a boost for Boeings international marketing efforts. At a media roundtable in Singapore in late May, Boeing vice-president Jeff Shockey said the airframer sees six new prospective KC-46A international buyers, for up to 20 aircraft. These are: Indonesia, Israel, Qatar, NATO, Norway and the United Arab Emirates.

Delays in the 767-based KC-46As development meant it missed out on several tanker competitions, with several potential customers opting instead for the Airbus Defence & Space A330 Multi-Role Tanker Transport. The UAE operates three MRTTs, but is also potentially interested in the Boeing type. The MRTT is also at this years show, with the French air force providing an in-service example for the static display.

The A330 platform also forms the basis for the Multinational Multi-Role Tanker Transport Fleet (MMF), a consortium of Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Norway that plans to share a fleet of eight tankers. Tankers are scheduled to be delivered between 2020 and 2024.

Boeing is pitching the KC-46A to MMF consortium member countries and operators of the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II stealth fighter.

Anyone that does not have a dedicated tanker fleet we are in conversations with, said Matt Carreon, director of international sales and commercial derivative aircraft, in a press briefing at Boeings St. Louis, Missouri facilities in mid-May. The countries that may be part of a consortium, but dont have national assets we are also in discussions with. They are realising, especially the F-35 customers, that a dedicated tanker asset is needed because of refuelling requirements of the F-35.

The USAF plans to certificate the KC-46A on 64 types of aircraft by 2021, including the Eurofighter Typhoon and Dassault Rafale.
With additional reporting by Greg Waldron

bug2 - 18-6-2019 at 10:59 AM

PARIS: NATO tanker fleet passes countermeasures test

17 June, 2019 SOURCE: Flight Daily News BY: Grant Turnbull Paris

Officials involved in the multinational multi-role tanker transport (MRTT) fleet (MMF) which will see eight adapted Airbus A330s pooled between five European nations are keen to introduce more countries to the capability-sharing agreement.

Speaking at the show, the general manager of the NATO Support and Procurement Agency (NSPA), Peter Dohmen, said there has been further interest in MMF beyond existing confirmed participants Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Norway.

The NSPA is responsible for life-cycle management of the pooled fleet.

In addition to the eight aircraft already on contract, three more are listed as options, in case more states join the initiative.

Dohmen stressed to FlightGlobal that being a member of the MMF does not mean that states have to bear the cost of operating a full-up tanker. "That's the beauty of this arrangement," he explains, highlighting NATO's "smart defence" concept.

Airbus Defence & Space is also hoping for increased interest, since this would lead to a further boost in sales. "Of course, we are interested in growing the MMF fleet," says Didier Plantecoste, head of MRTT and Airbus derivatives programmes. "MMF is a very strong programme, and it is important to us because it is a collaborative programme."

The first MMF aircraft was flown in November 2018, with a second example having made its debut in February.

Programme and industry officials used the show to mark the completion of initial trials with the MMF's directed infrared countermeasures and missile warning equipment, both of which are being supplied by Elbit Systems. The Israeli company's respective J-Music and PAWS IR systems are crucial for protecting the modified widebody against threats such as manportable air-defence systems.

Sasson Meshar, Elbit's vice-president of airborne electro-optics and laser systems, says flight testing with the countermeasures equipment integrated was successfully conducted in Spain last month.

"We did it in very challenging scenarios, together with the NSPA nations," he says. The DIRCM solution which includes two turrets on the aircraft, adding a total weight of around 150-200kg (340-440lb) will be certificated on the platform by September.

"This is not only a product milestone," says Dohmen. "I strongly believe that with this capability the MRTT will be able to fly much more safely."

The pooled assets will also have an MMF-specific medical evacuation configuration that will be certificated before first delivery, which is planned for May 2020.

Meanwhile, Plantecoste says he sees opportunities to "significantly enlarge" the current total fleet of A330 MRTTs, which stands at 60. He points to an undisclosed prospect in "the southern hemisphere". Other medium-term targets for Airbus include potential future requirements from Canada and Turkey, Airbus sources say.

bug2 - 22-6-2019 at 05:25 PM

Lockheed Martin and Airbus Reaffirm Tanker Partnership at 2019 Paris Air Show

(Source: Airbus Defence; issued June 20, 2019)

Alberto Gutierrez (L), Airbus Head of Military Aircraft; Michele Evans, Executive Vice President of Lockheed Martin Aeronautics, and Dirk Hoke, CEO of Airbus Defence and Space, pose in front of the Airbus A330 tanker at the Paris Air Show. (Airbus photo)

LE BOURGET --- With an agreement in place to explore U.S. military tanking opportunities, Airbus and Lockheed Martin senior executive leaders met for some "tanker talk" during the 2019 Paris Air Show.

Since signing our Memorandum of Agreement with Airbus last December, our teams have been working to expand our business relationship with a focus on providing the U.S. Air Force with the very best capability in aerial refueling, said Michele Evans, Executive Vice President for Lockheed Martin Aeronautics. We believe with Airbus and Lockheed Martins expertise in air refueling and innovative, combat-tested technologies such as low observability and networking operations, we make a powerful team to address the U.S. Air Forces tanker needs today and into the future.

Dirk Hoke, CEO of Airbus Defence and Space, said: The relationship with Lockheed Martin through this exciting project is growing day by day, and were looking forward to presenting our offer to the U.S. military in the near future. Our A330MRTT has been refueling U.S. military aircraft on combat missions since 2014, and together with Lockheed Martins proven record serving the U.S. Air Force we truly believe we can offer unbeatable capabilities.

We have said it before and I can only repeat it the A330MRTT is the most successful and most capable tanker platform in the world. It has proven its versatility and capability time and again. It is a tremendous asset for any military, including the U.S., said Alberto Gutirrez, Head of Military Aircraft at Airbus.


bug2 - 9-7-2019 at 12:00 PM

The Ministry of the Armed Forces Receives Second Phnix MRTT Three Months Early

(Source: French Armed Forces Ministry, issued July 07, 2019)

(Unofficial translation by

The French Air Forces second A330 tanker / transport aircraft at Istres air base. Visible in the background are two of the aircraft it will replace: the upgraded C-135F Stratotanker (R) and the Airbus A310 transport. (FR AF photo)

On 2 July 2019, the Directorate General of Armament (DGA) received the second A330-MRTT Phnix multi-role tanker aircraft (MultiRole Tanker Transport) at Air Base 125 in Istres. This aircraft was delivered to the Air Force three months early and with a first MedEvac (Medical Evacuation) capability, so as to reach full operational capability in the fall.

It will allow medicalized transport of a dozen very seriously injured patients, or the medical transport of 40 lightly-injured patients requiring less medical assistance.

The MRTT Phnix is based on the airframe of the Airbus A330 airliner, militarized to allow it to meet its specific mission requirements: support of the air component of the nuclear deterrent; contribution to the permanent security posture; projection of forces and medicalized transport in case of emergency medical evacuation.

Thanks to its versatility, the MRTT Phoenix replaces two distinct fleets for this entire range of missions: the current in-flight refueling fleet of C135-FR and KC135R, and the strategic personnel and freight transport fleet of A310 and A340.

The military programming law 2019-2025 provides for the acceleration of the modernization of the equipment of the forces, and in particular of the tanker aircraft fleet. It will bring forward to 2023, two years earlier than planned, the delivery of the first twelve aircraft, and creating the conditions allowing a subsequent increase of the fleet to fifteen aircraft in following years.

Florence Parly, Minister of the Armed Forces, welcomes this early delivery: "The Phoenix is an essential aircraft for the French forces, and for and our deterrence. It will replace aircraft, some of which are 60 years old, and represents a real revolution for the Air Force. Its versatility makes it a technological marvel, and it is an undeniable industrial success and an example of what a great European company - Airbus - knows how to build."


The Air Force Receives Second A330 Phoenix

(Source: French Air Force, issued July 05, 2019)

(Unofficial translation by

On 03 July 2019, the second A330 Phnix multi-role tanker transport aircraft arrived at Air Base 125 at Istres, in south-eastern France. Delivered after the completion of the delivery operations carried out by the Directorate General of Armament (DGA), this second aircraft will join the 31st Strategic Airlift and Transport Wing and the technical team in charge of its operational commissioning.

After a technical and operational evaluation campaign to develop the procedures for using the aircraft in operations, the first two Airbus A330 Phnix aircraft will be declared operational by the end of October 2019.

Thanks to its versatility, the Phoenix A330 will replace two separate fleets: the current in-flight refueling fleet comprising C135-FR and KC135R tankers, some of which will approach 60 years of age when they retire from service, and the strategic transport fleet, for personnel and freight, comprising A310s and A340s.

Mainly intended for the nuclear deterrence mission, the Phoenix, thanks to its multi-role capability, will also support missions of protection of the territory (through its contribution to the permanent security posture), the projection of forces and power as well as medical transport in case of massive medical evacuation.

The A330 Phnix is based on an Airbus A330 airframe adapted for military requirements.

The 2019-2025 Military Program Law calls for the procurement of 15 Airbus A330 Phnix tanker/transport aircraft for the French Air Force.


bug2 - 10-7-2019 at 04:00 PM

Premiere: An A400M In Action As Tanker

(Source: Bundeswehr; issued July 08, 2019)

(Unofficial translation by

The German Air Force is the first A400M operator to have cleared the aircraft for air-to-air refueling, and is also the first to have deployed an A400M to Jordan on its first operational air tanker mission. (Bundeswehr photo)

WUNSTORF, Germany / AL-ASRAK, Jordan --- Another new capability for the Luftwaffe: The A400M is now being tested abroad as a tanker aircraft. Its task: As part of Operation Counter Daesh, it is to refuel German and Allied aircraft in the air. The Luftwaffes Air Transport Squadron 62 has been working for a year to achieve this goal.

The Commander of Air Transport Wing (LTG) 62, Colonel Ludger Bette, has approved the first contingent of an Airbus A400M refueling version. "They approach this mission with LTG 62's own team spirit. I wish the team all the best, broken neck and broken legs and that you all come back home healthy," Bette told the 21 soldiers of the LTG 62 as they headed to Jordan, where they will replace an Airbus A310 in the refueling mission in Jordan.

Since August 2018, the certification of the A400M as refueling aircraft in the AAR (Air-to-Air-Refueling) version has been in progress. Air transport squadron (LTG) 62 from Wunstorf is the only Bundeswehr unit equipped with modern transport aircraft. At present, there are 30 A400Ms "on deck" in Wunstorf. In future, they will take over the transport missions of the C-160 Transall.

In addition to the flight preparedness of the Ministry of Defense with its three A310 multi-role transport tanker (MRTT) aircraft, the A400M aircraft are now an indispensable part of the strategic personnel and material transport capability of the German Armed Forces. So far, the use as MEDEVAC (Medical Evacuation) underlines the multi-role capability of the A400M.

The task migration is progressing and the role as tanker for German and Allied aircraft is also being taken over by the A400M. Currently, German Tornados, German and Spanish Eurofighters have been technically cleared for refueling from the A400M.

Additional user approvals, such as the Italian and British forces, are expected soon. The Luftwaffe is a pioneer, as Germany is the first A400M user nation to provide this capability.

All in all, the squadron will have ten sets of equipment available for retrofitting as tanker aircraft. This allows the A400M to be used flexibly. As a tanker aircraft, the Airbus can then refuel two aircraft at the same time. In total, around 40 tonnes of kerosene can be delivered, and up to ten aircraft can be refueled in one hour.

After numerous national and international certification flights, further refueling flights under operating conditions are on the agenda for the coming weeks.

The crews from Wunstorf now have the necessary procedures to carry out refueling missions under operating conditions. As part of the anti-IS Counter Daesh operation, the soldiers are deployed together with the task force.

Implementation will be parallel to flight operations with the A310 MRTT, also located at Jordan's Al-Asrak air base. Valuable experiences can be directly exchanged and used to further optimize this ability.

A machine for operating conditions

This "baptism of fire" is the final milestone for the operational readiness of the A400M as a tanker. Thanks to its ballistic protection, the A400M can also fly directly into operational areas such as Mali and Afghanistan and operate there.

The Luftwaffe Inspector General, Lieutenant General Ingo Gerhartz, agrees: "Today we are taking a giant step. With the deployment of the A400M to Jordan as a tanker, we are the first nation to deploy this aircraft. "

The adopted A400M AAR with the registration 54 + 10 started on time for Jordan and its first use as a refueling aircraft. At around 9:20 pm local time, it safely landed at the destination of Al-Asrak. At 30 degrees Celsius and a starry night in the desert, the landing lights of the A400M first fumbled out of the darkness towards the runway.

Joy about the task

One minute later, the machine touched Jordanian soil - Touch Down in ideal weather and some wind from the west. "The flight was quiet - of course emotional too, with the knowledge that with 21 soldiers and servicemen of my unit we are making the visible start for another important milestone in the capabilities of the A400M," said the pilot and commander of the mission after landing. "We are pleased to be able to apply in action the training we have had in recent months."

In the next two weeks, a lot of work will be done by the LTG 62 team. The test as a refueling aircraft in action - a real premiere that will use the German contingent Counter Daesh / Capacity Building Iraq to gain valuable experience in operations of the A400M AAR.


bug2 - 20-7-2019 at 01:56 PM

CHAMMAL: First Rafale Refuels from German A400M

(Source: French Air Force, issued July 18, 2019)

(Unofficial translation by

In a first for both aircraft, a German A400M transport/tanker aircraft refuels two French Air Force Rafale fighters over the Levant; on this particular mission, the fighters took on 3 tonnes of fuel. (FR AF photo)

Every day, the Rafales operating from the French deployed air base (BAP) in the Levant take off to carry out their missions as part of Operation Chammal. On Wednesday 17 July, after several hours of flying over hostile territory, a Rafale was refueled for the first time by a German Air Force A400M.

This was a historical first for both aircraft, illustrating in an unprecedented way the cooperation between European members of the Counter-Daesch coalition in the Levant.

Integrated into the core of the Inherent Resolve operation, this European tanker, like the French C-135FR, supports coalition aircraft in the fight against Daesh. It is placed under the operational command of the Qatar-based Combined Air Operations Center (CAOC).

The Rafales received three tonnes of fuel for the first time from the German A400M, which allowed them to complete their mission which required over five hours in flight. Given the size of the theater, combat aircraft must rely on in-flight refueling to stay on-station and accomplish their mission. In-flight refueling capability is essential for all air operations in this theater.

Like the French, Italian and American tankers, the German tanker is equipped with two flexible under-wing nacelles to refuel one or two fighters at the same time. It thus guarantees all coalition aircraft the responsiveness, strategic reach and endurance necessary for air defense or support missions of the Syrian democratic forces in Syria and the Iraqi security forces in Iraq. The A400M can carry up to 50 tonnes of fuel.

Since the beginning of 2019, BAP jet fighters in the Levant have already carried out 450 sorties and over 1,000 air refueling operations from the various tankers of the coalition, which have proved necessary to ensure the success of the aerial operations of French fighters.


bug2 - 18-9-2019 at 08:39 PM

PICTURE: Boeing produces first part for JASDF KC-46A

18 September, 2019 SOURCE: BY: Greg Waldron Singapore

Boeing has commenced work on the Japan Air Self Defense Forces (JASDF) first KC-46A tanker, with production of an 82.4 foot wing spar.

This is an exciting day for the program and we look forward to building and delivering these multi-role tankers to the Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF), said Jamie Burgess, Boeing vice president and KC-46 programme manager. From the enhanced flight deck to the modernized boom, this tanker will provide unmatched capabilities for Japan.

The tanker is part of a foreign military sales agreement that the US State Department approved in 2016, allowing the government of Japan to buy four KC-46A aerial refueling aircraft. At the time, the deal for the aircraft and related equipment, training, and support was estimated to be worth $1.9 billion.


In December 2018, Boeing received a $159 million contract from the US Air Force to build a second JASDF KC-46A.

Original plans called for Tokyos first KC-46A to be delivered in 2020, but delays with the programme could set this back.

The KC-46As will complement Tokyos four KC-767J tankers.

Cirium fleets data shows these assets are an average of 12.7 years old.

bug2 - 21-9-2019 at 03:35 PM

The Ministry of the Armed Forces Receives its First KC-130J Aircraft

(Source: French Armed Forces Ministry; issued Sept 19, 2019)

(Unofficial translation by

To make up for certain shortcomings in its A400M airlifter, France ordered four C-130J for its special operations command, including two tanker versions, the first of which was delivered yesterday. (FR AF photo)

PARIS --- Florence Parly, Minister of the Armed Forces, welcomes the delivery of the third C-130J Super Hercules aircraft that landed on Thursday, September 19 at Air Base 123 at Orlans-Bricy.

This aircraft delivered in its KC-130J tanker version will now allow for the first time - the French Air Force to have an in-flight refueling capability for helicopters, which will especially benefit its H225M Caracal helicopters.

The delivery of this aircraft to the Air Force contributes to the current rise in power of the Armed Forces in terms of equipment: between 2019 and 2025, it is 295 billion euros that are devoted to the French defense budget.

A second KC-130J tanker aircraft will be delivered in 2020.

This KC-130J is a fast-track acquisition to enhance the complementarity of the Air Forces tactical transport fleet, which comprises the A400M, the C-130J Super Hercules and C-130H Hercules, the C-160 Transall as well as the Casa CN-235.

This fleet is very much in demand for external operations, especially in the Sahelo-Saharan Band.

The C-130J is a four-engine turboprop tactical transport aircraft, of which the KC-130J is the tanker version. This is the first aircraft to allow the Air Force to refuel its H225M Caracal helicopters in flight, and thus give them a longer reach. This capability is unique in Europe.

The two KC-130Js will be operated by the 2/61 "Franche-Comt" air transport squadron, based Air Force Base 123 at Orleans-Bricy, which already operates two C-130J-30s transport aircraft.

Florence Parly, Minister of the Armed Forces, welcomed this delivery. "For the first time, the French armed forces will have aircraft capable of refueling helicopters. Until now we were totally dependent on American capabilities. I am proud to see the Air Force acquire such a capability. Our commitment in foreign operations as well as in national territory requires capabilities that are up to the missions that are carried out by our forces.


Frances Arme de l'Air Receives First KC-130J Super Hercules Aerial Refueler

(Source: Lockheed Martin; issued Sept 19, 2019)

ORLANS, France --- Lockheed Martin delivered the first of two KC-130J Super Hercules aerial refuelers to representatives from Frances Arme de l'Air's 62st Transport Wing at Orlans-Bricy Air Base today.

France will receive a total of four Super Hercules aircraft two C-130J-30 combat delivery airlifters and two KC-130J aerial refuelers through a Foreign Military Sale with the U.S. government. The two C-130J-30 airlifters were delivered in 2017 and 2018, and a second KC-130J will deliver in 2020. All of these Super Hercules are operated in conjunction with Frances existing C-130H fleet.

The KC-130J provides Arme de l'Air crews with a proven solution that delivers much-needed fuel in any environment, at any time, said Rod McLean, vice president and general manager, Air Mobility & Maritime Missions at Lockheed Martin. In choosing to operate both the C-130J-30 and the KC-130J, France has built a diverse airlift fleet that expands both the capabilities and global reach of the French Armed Forces.

France is the 17th country to choose the C-130J for its airlift needs. The C-130J Super Hercules is the most advanced tactical airlifter in operation today, offering superior performance and enhanced capabilities with the range and versatility for every theater of operations and evolving requirements.

As the preeminent tactical aerial refueling tanker, the KC-130J is a battle-tested solution that takes full advantage of the tremendous technological and performance improvements inherent in the C-130J Super Hercules aircraft. A true force multiplier, the KC-130J refuels both fixed wing and rotary wing aircraft as well as conducts rapid ground refueling.

With this delivery, France joins a global community of KC-130J operators. In 2018, Germany announced the acquisition of a C-130J-30/KC-130J fleet, to be operated in partnership with France making this first such operator relationship in C-130J history.

Headquartered in Bethesda, Maryland, Lockheed Martin is a global security and aerospace company that employs approximately 105,000 people worldwide and is principally engaged in the research, design, development, manufacture, integration and sustainment of advanced technology systems, products and services.


bug2 - 25-9-2019 at 09:38 AM

A400M performs first dry refuelling contact with helicopter

Gareth Jennings, London - Jane's Defence Weekly

24 September 2019

During trials, an A400M made dry aerial refuelling contacts with an H225M (right hose) while an H160 (left hose) conducted proximity tests. Source: Airbus

Airbus Defence and Space (DS) has performed the first air-to-air refuelling (AAR) contacts between the A400M tanker-transport aircraft and a helicopter, the company announced on 24 September.

The tests, which occurred over four flights, saw 51 'dry' (no fuel passed) contacts between an A400M tanker and an Airbus Helicopter H225M Caracal helicopter over southern France. The contacts were made between 1,000 ft and 10,000 ft altitude and at speeds as low as 105 kt.

The tests also included the first proximity trials between the A400M and an Airbus Helicopters H160 helicopter, which will be derived the Gupard future military multirole helicopter for the French armed forces.

As noted by Airbus DS, these tests were performed under the co-ordination of the French "DGA Essais en vol" flight test centre.

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bug2 - 9-10-2019 at 09:55 AM

The Phoenix Operational A330 for the Nuclear Deterrent Mission

(Source: French Air Force, issued Oct 07, 2019)

(Unofficial translation by

On Thursday, October 3, 2019, the A330 Phoenix was declared operational for the nuclear deterrence mission. It is now an integral part of the strategic air force system.

After a year of experimentation, the military air expertise center validated the first nuclear operational capability (PCO NUC) of the A330 Phoenix, the first copy of which was delivered on 2 October 2018 to the Air Force.

This means that it is now able to carry out the nuclear deterrence mission from Istres Air Base 125 (BA 125) and integrates in-theater and intra-theater air refueling capabilities as well as strategic transport.

A multirole aircraft, the A330 Phoenix will replace the Boeing C-135 of flight refueling group 2/91 "Brittany," the Airbus A310 and A340 of the transport squadron 3/60 "Esterel," whose retirement has already started.

This new aircraft will ensure responsiveness, increased range and endurance to support the various missions of strategic air forces. By 2023, the Phoenix fleet will be able to deploy 20 Rafale to the Antipodes in 48 hours.


bug2 - 23-10-2019 at 01:36 PM

Has Airbus fixed midair refueling problems with the F-15 jet?

By: Mike Yeo   12 hours ago

A Republic of Singapore Air Force F-15SG refuels from an A330 MRTT aircraft over the U.S. state ofIdaho during an exercise in September 2019. (Singapore's Defence Ministry)

MELBOURNE, Australia Airbus has developed changes to the software that controls the A330 tanker boom specifically for midair refueling of the Boeing F-15 Eagle. The modification, known as boom flight control law, was coded in response to difficulties encountered during flight trials, and the update adds another receiver type to the list of aircraft certified for refueling from the tanker.

Airbus told Defense News that the need for a new boom control law came to light during flight trials between an A330 Multi-Role Tanker Transport and U.S. Air Force F-15 fighter jets. Observers noticed midair refueling between the two aircraft was more difficult than other receivers due to the F-15 receptacles asymmetric design and the associated aerodynamics effects" near the receptacle.

The new boom control law on the A330 MRTT provides the boom operator with an improved and smoother way to perform the contact, an Airbus Defence and Space spokesman told Defense News.

He added that the software modification for the A330 MRTTs aerial refueling boom system, or ARBS, called Update III Loop 6.1, was certified in 2018 following flight tests between the MRTT and an unidentified operators F-15s during the development and certification phases to assess and validate the behavior of the new boom control laws.

The boom and receptacle method of air-to-air refueling is used on aircraft such as the F-15, Lockheed Martins F-16 Fighting Falcon, and Boeings B-52 Stratofortress and B-1 Lancer, in which a boom operator on board the tanker maneuvers and plugs the refueling boom into a receptacle mounted on the receiver aircraft. The refueling receptacle is usually mounted along the receiver aircrafts longitudinal centerline, although in some aircraft like the F-15, the receptacle is offset to one side.

The first Airbus A330 MRTT for the South Korean Air Force lands in South Korea for its acceptance tests. (Airbus Defence and Space)

This refueling method allows higher fuel transfer rates compared to the alternative probe and drogue approach, and the former method is usually used by the U.S. Air Force and larger receiver aircraft with higher onboard fuel capacity. Like many modern tanker aircraft, the MRTT is capable of supporting both refueling methods.

Why the F-15?

The Airbus spokesman did not go into detail about midair refueling difficulties with the F-15. However, an unclassified Republic of Singapore Air Force document seen by Defense News noted that during flight tests with its F-15SG aircraft, the receivers experienced a left roll tendency was observed in the center and right side of the boom envelope and that when the boom was disconnected between tanker and receiver, the fighter jet may yaw left (up to approximately 2 [degrees]) into the boom as the boom was flying up and away from the receptacle.

The standards-related document also said aircrew qualitatively assessed that the workload was minimal to moderate and was manageable, adding that the F-15s tendency to roll while on the MRTTs boom meant that it required a slight constant right aileron and/or rudder inputs to maintain in position.

This left roll/yaw phenomenon corresponds with what Defense News previously reported: During refueling trials conducted by an Australian MRTT in 2015 with U.S. Air Force receiver aircraft, the boom at certain flight parameters tended to move too close to and run the risk of contact with the F-15s canopy.

Singapores F-15SGs have received category 3 clearance for refueling from the MRTT, though some restrictions still apply, including that the MRTT ARBS version must be or later than Upgrade III Loop 6.1 and the F-15SG shall not carry stores on the two forward left weapons stations, known as LC3 and LC6.

In addition, MRTT air-to-air refueling operations must only be carried out with the ARBS in F-15 flight control law mode. The MRTT ARBS has two other control laws: light and heavy depending on the weight of the receiver aircraft. These boom control laws are used by modern fly-by-wire refueling booms to improve handling characteristics during the different phases of air-to-air refueling.

Category 3 clearance is the highest of three levels between tanker and receiver aircraft, and it is considered a low-risk clearance due to comprehensive compatibility testing between both aircraft, which includes flight testing across a range of performance parameters.

What other countries are affected?

The Singaporean document was uploaded to the website of NATOs Joint Air Power Competence Centre, alongside that of several other coalition and friendly countries such the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, France and Japan. Such documents are used to facilitate multinational interoperability between tanker and receiver aircraft.

Singapore is awaiting receipt of six A330 MRTTs. Its military operates a fleet of F-15SG multirole fighters used by two Singapore-based squadrons, and the fighter jets participate in U.S.-based training. Saudi Arabia and South Korea also operate the A330 MRTT and the F-15.

Airbus describes the Loop 6.1 update as the baseline for all new production aircraft, and its likely South Korea and France, which received their first A330 MRTT aircraft after Singapore, will operate tankers with the boom control update.

Airbus also says the update is available for MRTT operators upon request, and a spokesperson from Australias Defence Department told Defense News that all of its MRTTs, which are locally known as the KC-30A, have upgraded boom flight control laws (version Loop 5.2 to 6.1), which better accommodate refueling with the F-15 Eagle.

Australia was the first country to operate the MRTT and has carried out extensive refueling trials with other coalition receiver aircraft. In addition to F-35A Joint Strike Fighters, F/A-18 Hornets and Super Hornets, Australias MRTTs have also been certified to refuel coalition aircraft such as the U.S. Air Forces B-1 bomber and the A-10 close-air support plane, the French Rafale fighter jet, and the Indian Sukhoi Su-30 Flanker, among others.

Australia also wants to add the F-15 to that list. An Australian test pilot told reporters at the Avalon Airshow in Australia this year that there are plans to conduct trials with Singapores F-15SGs as well as Japanese F-15J and F-2 fighters.

bug2 - 8-11-2019 at 09:03 AM

Airbus DS to offer improved A330 MRTT

Gareth Jennings, Manching, Germany - Jane's International Defence Review

07 November 2019

Airbus Defence and Space (DS) announced an improved variant of the A330-200 Multi-Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) aircraft during the annual Trade Media Briefing (TMB), held at the company's Manching facility near Munich.

The improved aircraft is geared towards a number of expanding roles and capabilities. These were introduced to the media on 6 November by Ioannis Papachristofilou, Head of Marketing.

"The improvements are being prepared now," Papachristofilou said, adding that the goal is to evolve the market-leading tanker-transport aircraft into a versatile multimission platform of choice for future customers.

As outlined by Papachristofilou, the expanded roles include VVIP transport; intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR); and as an airborne communications node through enhanced connectivity. The new capabilities centre around predictive maintenance and automatic air-to-air refuelling (A3R).

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bug2 - 14-11-2019 at 09:04 AM

Airbus to advance automatic tanker trial for customer

13 November, 2019 SOURCE: BY: Craig Hoyle Munich

Further flight testing of a developmental automatic boom refuelling capability for the A330 multi-role tanker transport (MRTT) will be performed for an undisclosed customer next year, Airbus Defence & Space has disclosed.

Trials work on the companys A3R automatic air-to-air refuelling technology conducted since 2017 has included its A310 testbed making automatic in-flight contacts with Lockheed Martin F-16s and an A330 MRTT (pictured).

Airbus Defence & Space

Speaking at the companys Manching site in Germany early this month, Airbus head of tanker and derivatives programme Didier Plantecoste said it is aiming to secure certification for the advance during 2021.

We will be starting to do flight-tests next year with that customer, he says. We are expecting an improvement in safety and reliability of the operation, and a reduction in the time of contact [between aircraft].

The companys concept of operations for the A3R system is for the tanker to retain its current boom operator in a supervisory/safety role, and for the function to be available as a retrofit option for additional current customers.

Lockheed Martin

Other current focus areas include enhancing the aircrafts connectivity, to enable it to serve as an airborne communications node, and exploring its potential for carrying out communications and electronic intelligence tasks.

We are going to continue to enhance the aircraft, to provide additional capabilities to our customers, Plantecoste says.

Airbus has to date taken orders for 60 A330-200-based tankers, and delivered 41 of these to the air forces of Australia, France, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Korea, the UK and the United Arab Emirates. A first example produced for use by Multinational MRRT Fleet programme partners Belgium, the Czech Republic, Germany, Luxembourg and the Netherlands will be delivered next year.

Five deliveries have been made so far this year, with a sixth to follow, while the Royal Australian Air Force has also taken a converted ex-Qantas example to bolster its fleet.

In 2019 we have delivered all of the aircraft on time, or even in advance to suit our customers, Plantecoste says, describing its modification activity as a very mature industrial process.

Airbuss defence unit currently has no plan to transition its MRTT activity to the re-engined A330neo platform, and Plantecoste says: We are working closely with our civil partner at Airbus to secure production of the Ceo for the time being we have no concern.

With regard to future sales prospects, Airbus continues to monitor an ongoing tanker contest in India, and a long-term requirement to replace the US Air Forces McDonnell Douglas KC-10s replacement needs, which it would pursue in partnership with Lockheed.

bug2 - 16-11-2019 at 12:44 PM

OPINION: Ready for the next big tanker battle?

15 November, 2019 SOURCE: Flight International BY: Flight International

Much as an army cannot march on an empty stomach, an air force can have only limited effect without the range- and endurance-boosting support provided by in-flight refuelling tankers.

First trialled almost a century ago, the process of transferring fuel between flying aircraft is immensely more complex than might be expected as highlighted by Boeings continuing struggles with getting the US Air Forces (USAFs) 767-based KC-46A mission ready.

While it is currently flying high in this sector, it should not be forgotten that Airbus Defence & Space encountered similar travails when it adapted the A330-200 for the tanker mission. In common with its US rival, the European company also battled issues affecting the types boom, under-wing refuelling pods and enhanced vision system equipment.

Airbus Defence & Space

But buoyed by the A330 multi-role tanker transports sustained operational success with seven nations, and with six other users waiting in the wings to use a pooled fleet from next year, Airbus is looking to drive home its current market advantage.

Next year, the company will perform its most ambitious series of automatic boom trials yet with an undisclosed first customer for the capability, with certification sought during 2021. It also is eyeing the types potential for use as a communications node and in intelligence gathering.

With 60 aircraft sold and 41 delivered, Airbus has proven its credentials as a tanker superpower, even though Boeings KC-46A programme with the USAF will ultimately deliver almost three times as many aircraft.

If the USAFs KC-X tanker competitions were hard fought, just wait for the action when the service looks to replace its McDonnell Douglas KC-10s. Airbus already has an early teaming agreement with Lockheed Martin, and as its commercial A330-200 backlog dwindles, dont bet against an A330neo development emerging as its next filling station in the sky.

bug2 - 18-11-2019 at 07:20 PM

DUBAI: KC-46A makes debut amid big USA presence

16 November, 2019 SOURCE: BY: Greg Waldron Dubai

The US Air Force and Navy have made a significant show of force at Dubai this year, with 13 aircraft in the static park spread over 11 different types.

Notable USAF combat assets include the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor and the Boeing F-15E Strike Eagle. In addition, the KC-46A tanker is making its Dubai debut, alongside an E-3G Sentry Airborne Warning and Control System aircraft.

Max Kingsley-Jones / FlightGlobal

The KC-46A is a potential candidate for the UAE. The country operates three Airbus A330 multi-role tanker transports, but has a requirement for three additional tankers.

USN assets visiting from the carrier USS Abraham Lincoln include all variants of the F/A-18 Super Hornet: the single-seat F/A-18E, twin-seat F/A-18F, and the EA-18G electronic warfare aircraft. Also appearing at the show is the carrier-borne E-2D Hawkeye airborne early warning & control aircraft, the latest iteration of the venerable E-2.

One notable USN asset is the Sikorsky MH-53E Sea Dragon helicopter, which is optimised for mine-hunting missions.

The service says the MH-53E has undergone a fatigue life extension programme, extending the types service life to 10,000h, allowing it to serve until 2020.

bug2 - 18-11-2019 at 07:35 PM

DUBAI: Boeing gears up to talk tankers

16 November, 2019 SOURCE: BY: Greg Waldron Dubai

Boeing will use this weeks show to hold discussions with potential customers of the KC-46A tanker, citing strong interest in the 767 derivative.

Speaking at a press conference, Boeing Defense, Space & Security chief executive Leanne Caret said international interest is strong in the type.

In June, Boeing said that the UAE was interested in adding three additional tankers. Caret declined to discuss specific countries, but acknowledged that meetings will be held this week on the KC-46A capability.

We try not to get in front of our customers or potential customers, she said.

I can share that there is significant interest in the region and around the globe, and again it just reinforces that the community at large sees the great capability of the KC-46A. We're very excited about that. We'll have some bilaterals this week here in Dubai, and we have a team that's actively meeting customers around the world.

Caret was also asked about Boeings view on the possibility that Lockheed Martin and Airbus could work together to offer the A330 multi-role tanker transport as a potential replacement for the US Air Forces McDonnell Douglas KC-10 Extender.

[The KC-46A] is demonstrating in every aspect that she is the right tanker for the future for the USAF, and we see a lot of demand internationally. I'm all about competition, so that's all right. I'm proud and confident of the KC-46A.

The KC-46A has had a troubled service entry. Key remaining challenges include its remote vision system, refuelling boom, and cargo floor restraint locks issues the airframer has said it is working to address.

bug2 - 26-11-2019 at 09:38 AM

​Private aerial refueller Omega buys KDC-10 tankers with booms

25 November, 2019 SOURCE: BY: Garrett Reim Los Angeles

Omega Air took delivery of the first of two McDonnell Douglas KDC-10 tankers in San Antonio, Texas that it bought from the Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF) on 4 November.

The KDC-10 is the first aircraft that Omega owns with a refuelling boom, the company says on 22 November.

Omega says the aircraft, T-264, will be registered as N264DE. The aircraft is based on a three-engined DC-10 airliner. It was modified into a boom-equipped aerial refueling tanker before beginning service with the RNLAF fleet in 1995.

Omega says it is already certified to refuel a long list of receptacle aircraft. Those include the Fairchild Republic A-10, Rockwell B-1B, Boeing B-52H, Boeing C-17, Boeing E-3, Northrop Grumman E-8C, Boeing F-15C/D/E, Lockheed Martin F-16A-D, F-16F, F-16I, Lockheed Martin F-35A, McDonnell Douglas KC-10, Boeing KC-135R/T, Boeing RC-135V, Boeing RC-135S, Boeing RC-135U, and Lockheed Martin MC-130.

Omega KDC-10 aircraft refuelling Lockheed Martin F-35A
US Air Force

The delivery of the first KDC-10 is part of a two-aircraft deal with the RNLAF that was closed this fall. Omega did not disclose when it would receive the second tanker or the value of the sale.
The addition of these KDC-10 tankers, along with their boom capability, will give Omega the capability to potentially refuel every operative type of aircraft in US military inventory, the company says.

In addition to the new aircraft, Omega has two Boeing KC-707s and one McDonnell Douglas KDC-10 in its inventory. However, those aircraft only have hose-and-drogue refuelling equipment. The company needs a tanker with a refuelling boom to refuel US Air Force (USAF) aircraft.

Omega told FlightGlobal in December 2018 that it was considering buying new aircraft and pulling old ones out of storage in order to meet the US Air Force's (USAF) interest in adding commercial tanker services.

The United States Transportation Command said in a request for information in June 2018 that it had 20,000-30,000h annually not supported by its fleet of aerial refueling tankers or contracted commercial services. The command floated the idea of contracting additional commercial aerial refuelling services to meet that need.

In response, Lockheed Martin and Airbus also announced in December 2018 that they would team up to offer tanker services to the USAF.

bug2 - 10-12-2019 at 05:33 PM

Boeing looks at laser-range finder for KC-46A refuelling boom

09 December, 2019 SOURCE: BY: Garrett Reim Los Angeles

Boeing is researching adding a laser-range finder to the KC-46A Pegasus problem-plagued refuelling boom camera system.

The laser-range-finder retrofit onto the boom cameras, known as the remote vision system (RVS), would give operators additional information about the true distance between the end of the KC-46As boom and a receiving aircrafts receptacle during in-flight refuelling, says Will Roper, assistant secretary of the US Air Force (USAF) for acquisition, technology and logistics at the Reagan National Defense Forum on 7 December.

I am very pleased that Boeing has leaped forward on that kind of research, says Roper. They are looking at where they can install the laser-range finder, how they can run the wiring and cabling through it.

KC-46A Pegasus refuelling F-15
US Air Force

The addition of a laser-range finder is some ways off, however.
Weve got another turn before that design is tightened up to where we can proceed with it, says Roper. It is that kind of thinking that is going to get the RVS problem solved thinking outside the original design, which did not include that laser-range finder.

The KC-46A in-flight refuelling tankers original RVS cameras had two problems: a distorted three-dimensional video feed which makes it difficult for operators to perceive distances; and a problem automatically adjusting to changing lighting conditions, which causes the screen to washout in certain scenarios.

There is... a rubber sheet effect where some parts get stretched, some parts get compressed, so that the reality that the operator sees on the screen is not the same as the one outside the plane, says Roper.

Boeing is trying to straighten out the warping problem using algorithms that remap the video feeds pixels to the correct locations, he says.

The company is also working with scientists at the Air Force Research Laboratorys 711th Human Performance Wing to model potential fixes to the RVS, says Roper.

The remote visual system I am going to worry about it each day until we have a validated design, he says. One thing I am very happy about, weve got some of the best visual experts at the Air Force Research Lab and they are creating a model, a simulator of the RVS, [that] we can work through design iterations with Boeing, ahead of them putting engineering investment time on them.

bug2 - 14-1-2020 at 10:40 PM

Egypt demonstrates aerial refuelling for combat aircraft

Gareth Jennings, London - Jane's Defence Weekly

14 January 2020

An Egyptian Air Force MiG-29M Fulcrum fighter demonstrating a buddy-buddy aerial refuelling system in an official MoD video released on 13 January. The hitherto unknown capability will extend Egypt's ability to project air power beyond its national borders. Source: Egyptian MoD

Egypt now has the capability to aerial refuel combat aircraft, with an official video released by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) showing 'buddy-buddy' systems fitted to air force MiG-29M 'Fulcrum' fighters.

The video, which was released on 13 January to highlight the capabilities of the Egyptian armed forces, shows a pair of MiG-29Ms equipped with centreline hose-and-drogue units preparing to offload fuel to two Dassault Rafale combat aircraft.
Prior to the release of this footage, it was understood that the Egyptian Air Force (EAF) did not possess any aerial refuelling assets, meaning that the ability of its aircraft to operate beyond the country's national borders was limited.

While the video showed MiG-29Ms offloading fuel to Rafales, the system would be able to refuel any receiver aircraft fitted with a probe. For the EAF, this comprises the MiG-29M, Rafale C/DM, McDonnell-Douglas F-4E Phantom II, Dassault Mirage 2000EM, and Dassault Mirage 5E2/R/A aircraft types. As noted by Jane's World Air Forces, the EAF fields 14 MiG-29Ms, 23 Rafale C/DMs, an unknown number of F-4Es (to be replaced by the Rafales), 15 Mirage 2000EMs, and 27 Mirage 5E2/R/As.

The 'buddy-buddy' system seen fitted to the MiG-29M in the video is called the PAZ-MK Refuelling Pod. According to its manufacturer, Zvezda-NPP, it was designed to increase the range of carrier-borne MiG-29K/KUB aircraft, as flown by the Russian and Indian navies (the MiG-29M is actually a land-based variant of the MiG-29K/KUB). The pod taps directly into the aircraft's own fuel supply (which comprises internal and external tanks), offloading fuel to the receiver aircraft via an 18.5 m hose at a rate of up to 750 litres-per-minute.

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bug2 - 29-1-2020 at 02:47 PM

C-295 In-Flight Refueling Tests Continue

(Source: Spanish Air Force; issued Jan. 27, 2020)

(Unofficial translation by

The Spanish Air Forces Ala 35 (35th Air Wing), based in Getafe (Madrid), and the Airbus company have worked together over the past few weeks to continue testing the in-flight refueling version of the C-295 military transport aircraft which the company is developing.

Several test flights have been carried out at different speeds, testing the new equipment and its different configurations at the different air speeds at which the operation takes place.

VIDEO: El Ala 35 prueba el kit de reabastecimiento en vuelo del C-295 desarrollado por Airbus:

The Spanish Air Force and Airbus are testing the aerial tanker version of the C-295 twin turboprop tanker.

After these flights, very useful conclusions have been drawn so that the Airbus engineering team can continue developing the system. It should be noted that it was the first time that contacts were made with real fuel transfer from one plane to another using the new equipment.

The degree of difficulty of these test flights is always high, since it involves performing maneuvers that nobody has flown before. It should be noted that due to the behavior of the aircraft, the operation has been quite good and simple, always within the limits of difficulty inherent in a test flight.


bug2 - 10-2-2020 at 08:19 PM

France receives second and final KC-130J tanker-transport

Gareth Jennings, London - Jane's Defence Weekly

07 February 2020

The second of two KC-130Js and the last of four new Hercules for the French Air Force were handed over to service officials at the Marietta production facility in the United States on 4 February. Source: Lockheed Martin

France has received into service the second of two Lockheed Martin KC-130J tanker-transport aircraft as part of a wider Hercules procurement effort, the Directorate General of Armament (DGA) announced on 7 February.

The tanker variant of the C-130J transport aircraft was handed over to French officials at the Marietta production facility in Georgia on 4 February. The event came four months after the first KC-130J arrived at Orlans-Bricy Air Base in France in late September 2019.

Prior to receiving its two KC-130Js, France had earlier taken delivery of two 'stretched' transport C-130J-30 aircraft. All four aircraft are to be operated by 2/61 "Franche-Comt" 123 at Orlans-Bricy Air Base.

As previously noted by the DGA, the purchase of the four new Hercules is being expedited due to the high operational commitment in North Africa. The arrival of the first KC-130J enabled the air force to immediately undertake aerial refuelling of its Airbus Helicopter H225M Caracal rotorcraft, extending their reach across the Sahel-Sahara region. This was a capability that France had not previously possessed.

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bug2 - 12-2-2020 at 09:24 PM

Singapore air show 2020

Airbus Defence & Space and Singapore to collaborate on automatic aerial refueling

By Greg Waldron12 February 2020

Airbus Defence & Space and Singapore will collaborate on the development, certification and implementation of an automatic aerial refueling capability for the A330 Multi-Role Tanker Transport (MRTT).

A flight-test campaign for the new system is already under way, with certification expected in 2021, says Airbus.

Source: Airbus Defence & Space
A Republic of Singapore Air Force A330 MRTT

The agreement will see a Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) A330 MRTT take part in the work.

Objectives of the activity include improving the aircrafts availability and mission success rate.

With this agreement, the Singapore air force leads the evolution of the A330 MRTT, helping us to bring new hands-off capabilities to the benchmark of next-gen tanker operations, says Airbus head of military aircraft, Alberto Gutierrez.

The system, designated A3R, will reduce the air refueling operators (ARO) workload, boost safety, and optimize the rate of fuel transfer.

When A3R is activated, the flight control of the aircrafts boom is fully automated and transfers fuel upon contact with the receiver, with the ARO in a monitoring role.

The A3R development paves the way towards a fully autonomous aerial refueling operation, says Airbus.

Cirium fleets data indicates that Singapore has four in-service A330 MRTTs with two additional examples to be delivered. The type replaced the RSAFs Boeing KC-135Rs in 2019.

bug2 - 4-3-2020 at 02:37 PM

State Department approves sale of 8 Boeing KC-46A tankers to Israel

By Garrett Reim4 March 2020

The US State Department has approved the sale of eight Boeing KC-46A Pegasus in-flight refuelling tankers to Israel for an estimated $2.4 billion.

The US Congress has been notified of the possible sale, says the Defense Security Cooperation Agency on 3 March.

Source: Boeing
Boeing KC-46A Pegasus with refuelling boom extended

The potential sale to Tel Aviv comes after the Boeing KC-46A has suffered years of delays and weak Foreign Military Sales. Beside the US Air Force (USAF), which is on contract to buy 67 tankers, the only other country to buy the aircraft is Japan, which has two examples on contract.

The KC-46A programme has been hobbled by engineering and manufacturing problems, in particular with its refuelling boom camera, called the Remote Vision System. The camera can distort images that boom operators see, leading to accidental collisions with recipient aircraft.

Boeing is working on a fix for the issue, though the retrofit wont be ready and installed on service aircraft until 2022 or 2023, delaying the tankers operational use for several more years, the USAF has said.

Problems and delays with the KC-46A have put the programme several billion dollars in the hole. Foreign Military Sales are seen as critical to Boeings ability to make a profit on the programme.

For its part, Israel operates seven Boeing 707 and three Lockheed Martin KC-130H in-flight refuelling tankers, according to Ciriums Fleet Analyser.

The proposed sale further supports the foreign policy and national security of the United States by allowing Israel to provide a redundant capability to US assets within the region, potentially freeing US assets for use elsewhere during times of war, says the Defense Security Cooperation Agency. Aerial refueling and strategic airlift are consistently cited as significant shortfalls for our allies. In addition, the sale improves Israels national security posture as a key US ally.

In addition to the aircraft, the sales package would comprise of 17 Pratt & Whitney turbofan engines, including one spare; 18 Raytheon Miniature Airborne 2000-GPS Selective Availability Anti-Spoof Module Receivers; Collins AN/ARC-210 U/VHF programmable digital radios; and Raytheon APX-119 identification friend or foe transponders, among other spare parts and training services.

The possible sale notification to the US Congress does not mean the deal with Israel is finalised, as the quantity, configuration and price could change with further negotiations.

bug2 - 4-3-2020 at 02:54 PM

.and just to keep everyone "happy", they are also late with the "fixes"....

A fix for the KC-46 is already a year late

By: Valerie Insinna and Joe Gould   9 hours ago

Two KC-46 Pegasus aircraft from McConnell Air Force Base, Kan., sit on the flightline at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla., Jan. 29, 2020. (Airman 1st Class Ryan C. Grossklag/U.S. Air Force)

WASHINGTON The Air Force now believes a correction for the Boeing KC-46 tankers major technical problem wont be available until at least 2023, forecasting a one-year delay to previous estimates, its top general said Tuesday.

The service is now targeting a 2023-2024 timeframe to begin fielding a fix for the Remote Vision System, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Dave Goldfein said during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing. The RVS, manufactured by Rockwell Collins, is a series of cameras that allows users to steer a refueling boom into the aircraft receiving gas.

The slow pace of a fix prompted concerns from senators, who indicated that Congress may use the yearly defense policy bill to further pressure Boeing to move quickly.

The new timeline is an effectively a one-year delay from the three to four year timeframe anticipated for a fix in 2019, which would have put a resolution in 2022-2023. Boeing is already delivering KC-46s to the service, and it could take even longer than the projected 2023 start date to begin retrofitting the KC-46s in its possession with new hardware and software, Goldfein added.

Right now we are in final negotiations with the company on the fix, so Ive got to be a little careful about how much detail I go into, he told lawmakers.

But I did have a follow up conversation with the [Boeing] CEO [Dave Calhoun] and I told him that not only the quality of a serious hardware fix is important, but also time. Because the longer we wait to get that operational, the longer were having to extend KC-135s, KC-10s, and it just continues to add up.

Goldfein anticipates that Boeing and the Air Force will reach an agreement this month on how to fix the RVS and a schedule for rolling out the correction, he told Defense News in February.

The deal could have massive implications for the Air Forces tanker inventory, including its proposed budget for fiscal year 2021. The service intends to retire 29 tankers total 16 KC-10s and 13 KC-135sunder its current budget request for FY21.

However, the Defense Department appears to be reconsidering this plan due to concerns of an aerial refueling capability gap and calls by U.S. Transportation Command to restore funding for 13 KC-135s and 10 KC-10s. TRANSCOM head Gen. Stephen Lyons said last week that a solution was close at hand after meetings that included Deputy Defense Secretary David Norquist, Joint Chiefs Vice Chairman Gen. John Hyten and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein.

The Defense Department is now about two weeks from a final decision on whether it will retain a portion of the KC-10s and KC-135s slated for retirement, but that decision is closely linked to how quickly Boeing will be able to put in place a correction for the RVS, Air Mobility Command head Gen. Maryanne Miller told Defense News in an exclusive Feb. 28 interview.

Once we sit down with Boeing and get this finalized, we will really know a better timeline [for retiring legacy tankers], she said.

I think there was a tendency to look at the RVS as a problem thats going to get fixed in a short amount of time that you can accept the risk in the next couple of years by having less tankers, she said. Weve, over this past year, not made progress on RVS until a couple of weeks ago, and we now are in intense conversations with Boeing and the trend is very positive.

Air Mobility Command forecasts a gap of 23 to 28 tankers on any given day, Miller said. However, that gap impacts day-to-day missions like augmenting training exercises, not wartime requirements in the Middle East, she noted.

Were all clear eyed about the degradation to the joint force and the operational risk, Lyons said last week. To the senators questions, What do we do? Thats the big question. Whether it becomes a mark in this budget or a reprogramming action, were attempting to retain those aircraft to mitigate that deep bathtub [in capability] that occurs with the KC-46 conversion.

Time is of the essence

Currently, the Air Force has 31 KC-46s, with another two aircraft slated to head to Pease Air National Guard Base, N.H., this Friday. Those aircraft are being used for developmental tests and training, and Goldfein described his own experiences flying the KC-46 and using the Remote Vision System to refuel a C-17 during the hearing.

As youre trying to connect with an airplane, the last 10 feet is actually difficult for the boom operator to actually focus in and see, he said. So were seeing more strikes around the receptacle before it plugs in. The worst case conditions would be blue skies, sun at your back, because what happens is theres a glare that now bounces off the airplane and makes it harder to see.

If the United States found itself at war with a near-peer nation like Russia or China, the Air Force could mitigate the risk and use its KC-46s in combat even with its current RVS configuration, Goldfein said. However, the Air Force believes that degraded level of performance is not acceptable for normal operations.

Goldfein told lawmakers that he believes Boeing understands the importance of a speedy solution to the RVS problem, saying that Boeing has heard loud and clear that time is of the essence.

But lawmakers raised questions about the lack of progress on the issue.

Three or four years doesnt sound like time is of the essence to me, said Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H.,. I hope this committee will do what we can to address that as well, because thats unacceptable. It really is.

After the hearing, the panels top Democrat, Rhode Island Sen. Jack Reed, said lawmakers in the House and Senate armed services committees would look at the full range of legislative remedies through the nascent 2021 National Defense Authorization Act.

We want to have the capability of projecting power and without a refueling fleet of sufficient size and capacity, you dont have that, Reed said, adding: Theyre saying 2023 is when the problem will be fixed, and the question [the Air Force has] to ask the company, and I think we have to ask in turn is: Can that be accelerated?

Shaheen said outside the hearing she was concerned with both the potential for a gap in refueling capability but also training, if air refueling squadrons lack tankers. I dont think its acceptable at this point to say, Thats just the way it goes. I think we have to explore what options we might have, she said.

In a statement, Boeing deferred comments on the hearing to the Air Force.

We are working closely with the Air Force to enhance the KC-46 Remote Vision System. The KC-46 provides capability and capacity growth for the aerial refueling fleet, and we are committed to meeting that urgent need with a mission ready platform, the company said.

bug2 - 7-3-2020 at 01:08 PM

Omega Air expects both growth, competition for US commercial air refueling services

Pat Host, Washington, DC - Jane's Defence Weekly

06 March 2020

An Omega Air DC-10 (left) refuels an F-35B. The company expects the market for commercial aerial refueling services to grow as the US Air Force wants to reduce its tanker fleet, but an expert warns of high barriers to entry and unpredictable procurement signals. Source: Omega Air Refueling Services

Key Points

- Omega Air Refueling Services expects demand for its services to grow as the US Air Force wants to reduce its tanker fleet
- The company expects competitors to enter this market but an expert warns of flat budget predictions and high barriers to entry

The world's only provider of commercial aerial refueling services expects both the market and competition to provide aerial refueling services to the Pentagon to grow as the US Air Force (USAF) plans to reduce its aerial refueling tanker fleet.

Tom Swiderek, Omega Air Refueling Services (OARS) president, told Jane's on 3 March that the USAF has been discussing a requirement of between 10,000 and 20,000 flying hours per year and a programme value of about USD500 million per year. Air Mobility Command (AMC) held an industry day on 17 December and roughly 40 participants and 14 companies attended to discuss contracting boom-type air-to-air refueling, according to a service statement.

The USAF, in its fiscal year (FY) 2021 budget request, proposed reducing its tanker fleet by 20 aircraft. It would reduce its McDonnell Douglas KC-10A Extender capacity from 56 to 40 aircraft and cut its Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker fleet from 167 to 159 aircraft while increasing its Boeing KC-46A Pegasus inventory from 40 to 44 aircraft. Swiderek expects a large capability gap to develop as the USAF had accepted delivery of roughly 100 KC-135s per year for about seven to eight years in a row.

The service, on the other hand, expects to accept delivery of no more than 15 KC-46As per year through FY 2025. Additionally, USAF chief of staff General David Goldfein said on 3 March that the aircraft's troubles are so pervasive that he would only use the Pegasus in a high-end fight but not during day-to-day operations. Boeing is working towards ensuring that the aircraft's remove vision system (RVS) is functioning properly.

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bug2 - 18-4-2020 at 12:07 AM

Airbus Achieves Worlds First Fully Automatic Refuelling Contacts

(Source: Airbus Defence; issued April 17, 2020)

The picture shows the first fully automated refuelling contacts between an Airbus tanker test aircraft and a Portuguese Air Force F-16 fighter jet. (Airbus photo)

GETAFE, Spain --- Airbus has achieved the first ever fully automatic air-to-air refuelling (A3R) operation with a boom system. The flight test campaign, conducted earlier in the year over the Atlantic Ocean, involved an Airbus tanker test aircraft equipped with the Airbus A3R solution, with an F-16 fighter aircraft of the Portuguese Air Force acting as a receiver.

This milestone is part of the industrialisation phase of A3R systems ahead of its implementation in the A330 MRTT tanker development.

The campaign achieved a total of 45 flight test hours and 120 dry contacts with the A3R system, covering the whole aerial refuelling envelope, as the F-16 and MRTT consolidate the maturity and capabilities of the development at this stage. The certification phase will start in 2021.

Didier Plantecoste, Airbus Head of Tanker and Derivatives Programmes, said: The achievement of this key milestone for the A3R programme highlights the A330 MRTTs excellent capability roadmap development and once more confirms that our tanker is the worlds reference for present and future refuelling operations. Our special thanks go to the Portuguese Air Force for their continued support and help on this crucial development.

VIDEO: Airbus achieves worlds first fully automatic refuelling contacts:
Airbus video of a fully automatic refuelling of an F-16 fighter jet by an A330 MRTT tanker aircraft during the systems development.

The A3R system requires no additional equipment on the receiver aircraft and is intended to reduce air refuelling operator (ARO) workload, improve safety and optimise the rate of air-to-air refuelling transfer in operational conditions, helping maximise aerial superiority. The goal for the A3R system is to develop technologies that will reach fully autonomous capabilities.

Once the system is activated by the ARO, the A3R flies the boom automatically and keeps the alignment between the boom tip and the receiver receptacle with an accuracy of a couple of centimeters; the proper alignment and the receiver stability is checked in real-time to keep a safe distance between the boom and the receiver and also to determine the optimum moment to extend the telescopic beam to achieve the connection with the receiver.

At this point, the fuel transfer is initiated to fill up the receiver aircraft and once completed and the disconnection is commanded, the boom is cleared away from the receiver by retracting the telescopic beam and flying the boom away to keep a safe separation distance. During this process, the ARO simply monitors the operation.

To download images from this milestone; please click on the following link

Airbus is a global leader in aeronautics, space and related services. In 2019, it generated revenues of 70 billion and employed a workforce of around 135,000. Airbus offers the most comprehensive range of passenger airliners. Airbus is also a European leader providing tanker, combat, transport and mission aircraft, as well as one of the worlds leading space companies. In helicopters, Airbus provides the most efficient civil and military rotorcraft solutions worldwide.


bug2 - 30-4-2020 at 09:15 AM

Boeing KC-46A refuelling boom camera redesign to cost $551 million

By Garrett Reim

30 April 2020

It will cost Boeing $551 million to redesign the boom camera on the KC-46A Pegasus in-flight refuelling tanker.

In total, the aerospace company took a pre-tax charge of $827 million for the KC-46A tanker in the first quarter of 2020, it says in an earnings call on 29 April. In addition to the boom camera redesign, the programme lost money because of productivity inefficiencies and coronavirus-caused shutdowns of Boeings Puget Sound factories where the KC-46A is made, the company says.

KC-46A Pegasus connects with an F-15 Strike Eagle for an aerial refueling test over California in 2018
Source: US Air Force

Total losses on the KC-46A programme have now risen to about $4.6 billion.

The tanker charge caused Boeings Defense, Space & Security business to lose $191 million from operations in the first quarter of 2020. In the first quarter of 2019, the company earned $852 million from operations.

Boeing signed an agreement with the US Air Force (USAF) in April to develop and install a new boom camera, called the Remote Vision System (RVS), on the KC-46A. As part of that agreement, the service decided to release $882 million in payments withheld for a variety of problems with the KC-46A in order to shore up Boeings cash flow.

The KC-46A programme has been plagued by problems that have delayed delivery of aircraft and hurt its operational readiness. Issues have included foreign object debris found inside the tankers airframe, malfunctioning cargo locks and leaky fuel tanks, as well as problems with images produced by the RVS warping or washing out on boom operator video screens.

The USAF has withheld 20% of payments on examples of the KC-46A that Boeing delivered to the service because those aircraft do not meet agreed specifications. The programme has three category-one deficiencies, such as the issue with the RVS, and a number of other smaller problems.

Category-one deficiencies are problems which may cause death or severe injury; may cause loss or major damage to a weapon system; critically restricts the combat readiness capabilities of the using organisation; or results in a production line stoppage, the USAF has said.

With losses on the KC-46A programme already piled high, Boeing is hoping to make up the deficit with sales to foreign militaries. International customers have been slow to buy the tanker, but Boeing notched an important win in March when Israel was approved to buy eight examples of the aircraft for an estimated $2.4 billion. Prior to that only Japan had agreed to buy the KC-46A, with just two aircraft on contract.

bug2 - 8-7-2020 at 11:50 PM

Airbus Transforms A330s into Multi Role Tanker Transports Through an Optimised Conversion Process

(Source: Airbus; issued July 07, 2020)

Airbus A330 Multi Role Tanker Transports (MRTTs) are now being outfitted for their multi-mission duties in an optimised industrial process enabling five aircraft to undergo the conversion every year. (Airbus infographic)

Having earned its reputation as the new-generation aerial tanker of choice for military services worldwide, Airbus A330 Multi Role Tanker Transports (MRTTs) are now being outfitted for their multi-mission duties in an optimised industrial process enabling five aircraft to undergo the conversion every year.

The A330 MRTT is based on Airbus popular A330 widebody passenger airliner, with the aircraft produced on the companys commercial airplane final assembly line in Toulouse, France. Once their initial built-up is complete, they are flown to Airbus military aircraft facility in Getafe, Spain to be transformed with hardware and systems for their dual roles as an air-to-air refuelling platform and an airlifter for troops and cargo.

Thousands of new parts integrated

During the conversion, Airbus teams install some 16,000 types of new components and approximately 450 new electrical harnesses (for a total cabling length of more than 50 km.), as well as 6,000 brackets and 1,700 connectors.

With 42 A330 MRTTs delivered to date, Airbus has reduced the end-to-end transformation time by one month, introducing increased digitalization and applying the takt principle of lean production methodology in which the aircraft moves through the conversion with zero hours pending and zero work orders open.

The digitalization includes the increasing use of Microsoft HoloLens mixed reality headsets instead of computer tablets. With 80 to 90 work orders now produced with HoloLens, the goal is to apply the system during 2020 for 50% of overall work orders, mainly for electrical and hydraulic installations.

A key element of the conversion is installing the A330 MRTTs air-to-air refuelling hardware. All aircraft are equipped with hose and drogue units, and most customers have opted for Airbus highly capable fly-by-wire Aerial Refuelling Boom System (ARBS) which provides enhanced controllability during in-flight fuel transfers to receiver airplanes.

The A330 MRTT transformation process includes locating the Airbus-developed Air Refuelling Console in the cockpit area behind the pilots. Containing seats for two crew members, this station enables the aerial refuelling to be remotely controlled, aided by an advanced high-resolution observation system with panoramic 3D-vision for operations day and night.

On the A330 MRTTs main deck, the aircrafts widebody cross-section can be configured a variety of roles, from the transportation of troops and personnel with capacities for 268 passengers in a two-class configuration, to aeromedical evacuation accommodating two intensive care units, 16 stretchers, along with seating for medical staff and passengers.

Customers from around the world

Airbus delivered its initial A330 MRTT in December 2009, with this no. 1 aircraft received by the Royal Australian Air Force. Today, A330 MRTTs are flown by Australia, France, Singapore, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, the United Emirates and United Kingdom logging a combined total of more than 200,000 flight hours.

A total of 60 A330 MRTTs have been ordered for operations at the service of 13 nations.


bug2 - 23-7-2020 at 11:43 AM

CC-150 Polaris Tanker Fleet Reaches NORAD Milestone

(Source: Royal Canadian Air Force; issued July 20, 2020)

The Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) and the Canadian NORAD Region (CANR) achieved initial operating capability for their fleet of CC-150 Polaris air-to-air refuelling tankers, operated by 437 Transport Squadron, from Trenton, Ontario, on July 1, 2020.

This milestone, otherwise known as IOC, validates the fleets ability to support not only its enduring strategic airlift and air-to-air refuelling role for other domestic and overseas operations, but also the same capability for NORAD, which includes Northern and Arctic operations.

Notable missions the fleet will now support are similar to what NORAD conducts in response to Russian incursions into the Canadian and United States identification zones in the Arctic, such as the missions carried out on June 16, 24 and 27, 2020.

Until the point of this milestone, the RCAF primarily relied on their aging fleet of CC-130H/T Hercules air-to-air refuelling and transport aircraft to fill this role; but those aircraft are now being phased out of service, as their primary search and rescue (SAR) role is soon to be taken over by the Government of Canadas purchase of the new CC-295 Fixed Wing SAR platform.

The CC-150 Tanker is a great platform for the CANR mission. Its fast, reliable and extremely flexible in its ability to help us achieve our mission set, said Brigadier-General Ed Hertz Vaughan, Deputy Commander, Canadian NORAD Region.

When NORAD tasks our region to deploy CF-18 Fighters to the north, the Polaris tanker is now ready to be a part of the mix, to help defend our approaches and keep us all safe.

This IOC milestone was validated during a real-world CANR deployment to Yellowknife and Inuvik, Northwest Territories, during the weekend of June 13. The aircraft flew north to meet up with CF-18 Fighters over the Beaufort Sea, where it provided air-to-air refuelling support.

The Polaris tanker aircraft is a similar version to the CC-150 Polaris aircraft which are configured to carry passengers, not unlike a typical airliner. The difference with the tanker version is fewer seats, and the ability to carry more fuel and cargo.


bug2 - 6-8-2020 at 11:52 AM

How global A330 MRTT fleet stepped up during crisis

By Craig Hoyle

5 August 2020

In common with its A400M Atlas stablemate, the Airbus Defence & Space A330 multi-role tanker transport (MRTT) has come into its own during the coronavirus pandemic, with multiple nations demonstrating the adapted widebodys operational versatility.

The MRTT was absolutely part of the fight against Covid[-19], Didier Plantecoste, the companys head of tanker and derivatives programmes, tells FlightGlobal.

A330 Phenix
Source: French air force
The French air force recently added a third Phenix tanker/transport

Some of our customers were performing important missions, he says, including repatriation and medical evacuation flights, such as several return sorties to Wuhan, China, conducted by the French air force with the services new Phenix tankers.

Airbus itself employed a green A330, which had yet to enter modification for its military customer, to transport more than four million face masks from Tianjin, China, for donation by the company to France and Spain.

The MRTTs medevac capabilities including being partially reconfigured to house intensive care unit (ICU)-standard equipment have also been repeatedly proven during the health crisis.

Plantecoste notes that not all MRTT users had selected such an option for their fleets prior to the crisis, but that demand has spiked. We have seen real interest from our customers, he says, with Airbus offering from light to heavy medevac configurations.

Disruption to normal working practices during the coronavirus outbreak posed challenges, but ensuring strong support and meeting delivery milestones remained a key focus for the company. The main contribution was to our customer, Plantecoste notes: business continuity was really key for us.

Such work included completing a systems upgrade on a first A330 for the Republic of Korea Air Force. This was conducted on the services third example from a four-unit buy, which was returned to use by Seoul in late May.

Late June saw the delivery of a first boom- and hose-and-drogue refuelling pod-equipped A330 for the NATO Multinational MRTT Fleet (MMF), to Eindhoven air base in the Netherlands. This was immediately followed by the transfer of a third Phenix to France, while a second example for the MMF is due to be shipped within the coming weeks.

Source: Airbus Defence & Space
Six-nation MMF group could eventually operate up to 11 of the type

This trio of deliveries in little over a month will mark a record for the MRTT programme. They will take to 44 the total number of aircraft handed over to customers, with a further 16 on firm order. Other current users are Australia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, the UK and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

In a stroke, the MMF programme has added six more nations to this users group. Current arrangements call for an eventual pooled fleet of at least eight aircraft to deliver a combined 8,900 flight hours per year for Belgium (1,000), the Czech Republic (100), Germany (5,500), Luxembourg (200), the Netherlands (2,000) and Norway (100).

Deliveries will be complete by 2022, with options for a further three tankers in place. Configured with 31 business- and 236 economy-class seats, the assets can also be converted for medevac tasks, in a revised layout with six ICU beds, 16 stretchers, seating for 21 medical staff, and 96 passengers.

In another recent development, Plantecoste says the UKs conversion of an AirTanker-owned A330 Voyager for VIP transport applications has prompted interest from several other operators. Used by the Royal Air Force, the asset retains its primary in-flight refuelling capability.

Source: Crown Copyright
One of the UK Royal Air Forces Voyagers can perform tanker and VIP transport tasks

Further enhancements to the MRTT are already in the pipeline, led by an automatic air-to-air refuelling, or A3R, boom capability. Certification is on schedule for 2021, for service introduction by Singapore, with Australia also interested.

The new technology will reduce operators training burden and enhance safety, says Plantecoste, adding: We are convinced that we are securing the future.

France and the UK, meanwhile, intend to employ their tankers as communication nodes within future combat air system networks.

We have a huge opportunity to pave the way to support the combat cloud, says Plantecoste, who expects a Standard 2 requirement with Frances DGA defence procurement agency to advance next year.

While the European pair are leading the way, Most of our customers are really pushing us to provide additional capabilities in the communication sphere, he says.

With production of the MRTTs A330-200 baseline platform secure until 2023 or 2024, Airbus is eyeing additional sales opportunities. Beyond providing extra aircraft for an expanded MMF group in Europe, it is entering a new round of negotiation with the UAE, which last November signalled an intention to double the size of its three-strong fleet of the Airbus type. However, Plantecoste notes that the company still faces strong competition for the deal from Boeings 767-based KC-46A.

Prior to the coronavirus-driven downturn and collapse in oil prices, Qatar was viewed as a strong prospect last year, he says. Doha needs tankers to support its rapidly growing fighter inventory, which will include Boeing F-15s, Dassault Rafales and Eurofighter Typhoons.

Longer term, Airbus and its partner Lockheed Martin are waiting on the US Air Force to detail its plan for replacing a fleet of 58 McDonnell Douglas KC-10s.

Source: US Air Force
The US Air Force must soon decide how to replace its KC-10 fleet

We are expecting something like an RFI [request for information] in the months to come. Our objective will be to answer that jointly with Lockheed Martin, Plantecoste says.

He notes that previous Airbus studies have shown that despite its smaller size, the A330neos much lower fuel consumption could allow it to compete perfectly in terms of capability.

We have all the competencies to offer an A330 MRTT Neo, [but] we will have to make a huge investment for that, Plantecoste says. However, he quips: If you are ordering 30 MRTT tomorrow, I will find a solution.

Airbus also remains in discussion with India another potential MRTT customer regarding an indigenous project to adapt the A330 for airborne early warning and control duties. The company would supply so-called blue aircraft, readied for the installation of a roof-mounted rotodome and onboard mission equipment. We have delivered offers, and we are quite confident, he says.

Following a successful stint at the head of the A330 MRTT project, Plantecoste will from early September manage the Eurodrone project for Airbus Defence & Space. This will deliver unmanned surveillance aircraft for use by France, Germany, Italy and Spain.

unicorn - 6-8-2020 at 05:52 PM

And Congress and the Senate, bought and paid for by Boeing, will ensure their franken-tanker will always win over the KC-30, no matter what.

bug2 - 6-8-2020 at 06:27 PM

Quote: Originally posted by unicorn  
And Congress and the Senate, bought and paid for by Boeing, will ensure their franken-tanker will always win over the KC-30, no matter what.

That WAS the case BUT Boeing has resoundedly shit in it's own nest not just with KC-46 but also with 737MAX (and that little shitheap has NOT gone away yet). Despite the Billion or three they got from the US Government, they remain in dire financial straits............and it's only going to get worse, for them and for other airline manufacturers.

JimWH - 7-8-2020 at 05:48 PM

Quote: Originally posted by bug2  
Quote: Originally posted by unicorn  
And Congress and the Senate, bought and paid for by Boeing, will ensure their franken-tanker will always win over the KC-30, no matter what.

That WAS the case BUT Boeing has resoundedly shit in it's own nest not just with KC-46 but also with 737MAX (and that little shitheap has NOT gone away yet). Despite the Billion or three they got from the US Government, they remain in dire financial straits............and it's only going to get worse, for them and for other airline manufacturers.

Given the collapse in the aviation industry, Boeing must be feeling fantastically anxious about what it's going to do with all those 737MAX airframes...

bug2 - 20-8-2020 at 10:11 PM

20 AUGUST 2020

A400M conducts first 'wet' air-to-air refuelling with a helicopter

by Emmanuel Huberdeau

An Airbus A400M transport/tanker aircraft has conducted a 'wet' air-to-air refuelling (AAR) contact with a helicopter, it was announced by the French Direction Gnrale de lArmement (DGA) on 19 August.

Wet aerial refuelling contacts between an A400M and H225M helicopter were made for the first time during trials in late July, the DGA announced on 19 August. (DGA)

The test campaign, which was actually flown from 2031 July, and involved an A400M test aircraft commenting with a French Air Force Airbus H225M Caracal helicopter from 1/67 Pyrnes squadron. The trials were aimed at assessing the two aircraft flight envelopes and the performances of the refuelling system, and showed that fuel could be transferred from the A400M to the H225M.

Up to now, only dry contacts between the A400M and helicopters had been conducted in September 2019.

bug2 - 5-9-2020 at 02:09 PM

The Ministry of the Armed Forces Orders Three A330 Aircraft As Part of the Aerospace Industry Support Plan

(Source: French Armed Forces Ministry; issued Sept. 03, 2020)

(Unofficial translation by

France has brought forward an order for three Airbus A330s as part of its plan to support its aerospace and defense industry; the aircraft will be later converted to MRTT tanker configuration, eventually increasing Frances tanker fleet to 15 aircraft. (DGA photo)

Florence Parly, Minister of the Armed Forces, welcomes the order by the General Directorate of Armaments (DGA) on August 25, 2020 of three Airbus A330 aircraft as part of the government plan to support the aeronautical industry announced on June 9. The contract is worth 200 million euros. The first two aircraft will be delivered at the end of 2020, and the third in 2022.

These three A330s will be eventually be converted into Phoenix MRTT (Multi-Role Tanker Transport) military aircraft. They will then complement the 12 MRTTs expected to be in service by 2023, bringing the Air Force's MRTT fleet to 15 aircraft, in accordance with the final objective fixed by the multiyear Military Planning Law (LPM).

This order will make it possible to advance the withdrawal from service of the Air Forces two A340s and two A310s, and will ultimately simplify the management of the strategic military aircraft fleet which will be entirely composed of MRTT Phnix.

The advance order for these three A330 aircraft is a concrete and immediate measure of the support of the Ministry of the Armed Forces for the aeronautical industry sector. The total amount of orders that will be placed by the DGA as part of the support of the Ministry of the Armed Forces to the aeronautics industry (advance orders for planes, helicopters and drones) will amount to 600 million euros, with another 230 million euros for the acquisition of helicopters for the benefit of the Civil Protection service and the Gendarmerie Nationale police.

The DGA, in addition to its role of technical authority for state-owned aircraft, conducts aircraft acquisition and modernization projects for the benefit of the Ministry of the Interior. In this context, it applies its proven program management methodology to military programs, with the development of a detailed technical specification and an acquisition strategy in close collaboration with users, negotiation and market monitoring with the manufacturer, and finally the qualification (verification that technical specifications are met) and the acceptance of the aircraft (verification of contractual conformity).


bug2 - 28-9-2020 at 10:18 PM


NATO MMU to receive additional MRTT aircraft

by Gareth Jennings

The Multinational Multirole Tanker Transport Unit (MMU) located at Eindhoven Airbase in the Netherlands is to receive an additional Airbus A330 Multi-Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) aircraft, the NATO Support and Procurement Agency (NSPA) announced on 28 September.

The MMU will now operate nine MRTT aircraft for the MMF capability, following Luxembourgs decision to increase its commitment to the multinational programme. (NSPA)

The decision, which will increase the multinational fleet to nine aircraft, has been made in response to Luxembourgs decision to increase its contribution to the capability that also includes Belgium, the Czech Republic, Germany, the Netherlands, and Norway.

This ninth aircraft is part of the three additional options originally included in the contract. The order will be placed by the Organization for Joint Armament Cooperation (OCCAR) to Airbus Defence and Space, on behalf of NSPA, the agency said, noting that the additional aircraft is now required after Luxembourg disclosed that it would increase its required flight hours from 200 to 1,200.

The MMU operates the Multinational Multi-Role Tanker and Transport Fleet (MMF) on behalf of the six participating nations. Managed by the NSPA with support from the OCCAR, the capability will provide pooled access to aerial refuelling (hose-and-drogue and boom/receptacle), strategic passenger and cargo airlift, as well as aero-medical evacuation (medevac) capabilities.