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[*] posted on 14-12-2018 at 02:10 PM


Omega to compete for US Air Force commercial tanker service

13 DECEMBER, 2018 SOURCE: FLIGHTGLOBAL.COM BY: GARRETT REIM LOS ANGELES

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."
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[*] posted on 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.
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[*] posted on 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.



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[*] posted on 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.

https://www.pogo.org/analysis/2019/03/fill-er-up-why-its-tak...

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[*] posted on 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.

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[*] posted on 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.
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[*] posted on 17-6-2019 at 02:10 PM


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

16 June, 2019 SOURCE: FlightGlobal.com 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
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[*] posted on 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.
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[*] posted on 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.

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[*] posted on 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 Defense-Aerospace.com)


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."

(ends)

The Air Force Receives Second A330 Phoenix

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

(Unofficial translation by Defense-Aerospace.com)

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.

-ends-
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[*] posted on 10-7-2019 at 04:00 PM


Premiere: An A400M In Action As Tanker

(Source: Bundeswehr; issued July 08, 2019)

(Unofficial translation by Defense-Aerospace.com)


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.

-ends-
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[*] posted on 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 Defense-Aerospace.com)


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.

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[*] posted on 18-9-2019 at 08:39 PM


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

18 September, 2019 SOURCE: FlightGlobal.com 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.


Boeing

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.
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[*] posted on 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 Defense-Aerospace.com)


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.

(ends)

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.

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[*] posted on 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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[*] posted on 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 Defense-Aerospace.com)

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.

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[*] posted on 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.
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[*] posted on 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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[*] posted on 14-11-2019 at 09:04 AM


Airbus to advance automatic tanker trial for customer

13 November, 2019 SOURCE: FlightGlobal.com 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.
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[*] posted on 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.
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[*] posted on 18-11-2019 at 07:20 PM


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

16 November, 2019 SOURCE: FlightGlobal.com 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.
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[*] posted on 18-11-2019 at 07:35 PM


DUBAI: Boeing gears up to talk tankers

16 November, 2019 SOURCE: FlightGlobal.com 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.
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[*] posted on 26-11-2019 at 09:38 AM


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

25 November, 2019 SOURCE: FlightGlobal.com 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.
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[*] posted on 10-12-2019 at 05:33 PM


Boeing looks at laser-range finder for KC-46A refuelling boom

09 December, 2019 SOURCE: FlightGlobal.com 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.
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[*] posted on 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.

(297 of 622 words)
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