An Update on Tankers


01/05/2012 While the Aussies are getting their tankers, the USAF waits.  According to an Airbus Military Press Release of December 29, 2011.

The fourth Airbus Military A330 MRTT multi-role tanker transport for the Royal Australian Air Force has been formally handed over to the service, leaving just one aircraft of its order still to be delivered.

Known as the KC-30A in RAAF operation, this particular aircraft is the only one for the RAAF to have been converted from the basic A330 in Madrid, the others having been converted by Qantas Defence Services in Brisbane, Australia. It took part in the A330 MRTT development programme and has been extensively renovated prior to delivery in Madrid.

RAAF Tanker Credit: Airbus Military

Following the handover the aircraft will remain in Spain for continued test work and will be transferred to RAAF Base Amberley, Queensland later in the year. The fifth and final aircraft will be delivered in the third quarter of the year.

The A330 MRTT recently underwent successful refuelling trials in Australia with a RAAF F/A-18 fighter and earlier this month was displayed by the RAAF at the LIMA Airshow in Malaysia.

It is the world’s most advanced air-to-air tanker and the only certified and flying new generation tanker/transport aircraft in existence. It will substantially increase the aerial refuelling and logistical capabilities of the RAAF.

In RAAF service, the aircraft are equipped with two underwing refuelling pods, the fly-by- wire Airbus Military Aerial Refuelling Boom System (ARBS), and a Universal Aerial Refuelling Receptacle Slipway Installation (UARRSI) enabling it to be refuelled from another tanker. Powered by two General Electric CF6-80E engines, the aircraft are equipped with a comprehensive defensive aids suite (DAS) and fitted with 270 passenger seats.

As Secretary Wynne commented on the Aussie development:

While we are putting our Marines in Australia, the RAAF should make an offer to the USG to take over tanking activity for the SEAsia area. The concept is that RAAF would fund with US money enough tankers to conduct operations for the area.

I think France or Germany (or NATO) should make the same offer for European Tanking operations. EADS or Airbus should Orchestrate the offers to fit their production schedules.

This means everyone will bring specialty equipment to operations.

Meanwhile, back in the United States, the Boeing cheerleaders continue to show up on the negative side of the equation.

As John Reed of DOD Buzz recently opined:

Boeing’s 767-based KC-46 tanker program will now be based out of facilities around Puget Sound, Wash. This will put the facilities that turn 767s into KC-46s much closer to the Everett, Wash, plant that makes the 767.

Keep in mind that Boeing may take a loss making the first batch of 17 KC-46 tankers that it is making for the U.S. Air Force. This is because the company underbid EU subsidized rival EADS in the KC-X contest (the competition was often described as a price shootout) in order lock-in future contracts for the 179-plane KC-46 program that it will be able to turn a profit on.

“If we left the tanker here it would become unaffordable to our customer because the rest of the site would corrode,” added Bass. He would not discuss contracts that are winding down in Wichita. “It’s primarily the facilities and infrastructure costs here in Witchita” that are leading to “tremendous inefficiencies.”