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Air Force Continues Commitment to KC-46A

At a recent conference the Air Force Secretary, Mr. Michael Donley, discussed the key programs for the Air Force’s future. Facing a declining budget situation the Air Force as all of the services may be forced to choose which investments have a higher priorities then others. Not surprisingly the keys for the Air Force will be the F-35, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV), space and the KC-46A tanker.

The KC-46A currently being developed by Boeing (BA) will go into service later this decade to replace the aging KC-135 fleet. In terms of total cost it is one of the largest current defense programs. If the Air Force follows through with the first 170 odd aircraft the cost will be about $35 billion. There are plans to buy another 300 or more.

If there are as significant reductions to the defense budget as being discussed then the KC-46A like so many other programs may see quantities cut. This could be either the total procured or the annual buys. It could also see it being maintained at the expense of other investment programs such as new UAV or space programs.

Tankers are a key force multiplier for the United States. Declining amounts of strike assets increase the reliance on the tanker fleet. The need for the KC-46A is well established and it is a program now that the commitment to Boeing has been made that the U.S. really cannot afford to reduce. Whether this holds true remains to be seen.

U.S. Air Force Continues to Out Source Training, DRG Benefits

In the Nineties as part of the “Peace Dividend” the United States Department of Defense eliminated hundreds of thousand of active duty personnel and over a million civilian positions. Many of those were involved in depot repair and maintenance, weapon production and training which has required these roles to be often taken on by contractors now. Any decisions about in-sourcing and changing the balance between government and contractor must take these earlier decisions into account.

At the same time this has allowed companies to grow into these markets by being able to provide these necessary services including the training of crew and maintenance personnel. Delaware Resource Group (DRG) of Oklahoma is one company that has been able to take advantage of the use of outside contractors for training and has just secured a significant contract from the U.S. Air Force to support tanker aircraft. DRG is a privately held company and its President, Mr. Phil G. Busey, Sr. was recently named Oklahoma’s 2010 Business Person of the Year.

The new contract for support of the KC-10 tanker aircraft whose management and depot are located at Tinker AFB in Oklahoma has the potential to be worth over $50 million. The contract calls for DRG to provide personnel at the major bases for the KC-10 to support training of all aircrew including pilots, flight engineers and boom operators.

The U.S. has relied heavily on their aerial tanker fleet since 9/11 to support operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and the maintaining of high readiness rates and proficient crews is critical to this mission. The Air Force currently operates 59 KC-10 as well as a much larger force of Cold War Era KC-135 aircraft. A new contract was just awarded to Boeing (BA) to build KC-46A aircraft to begin replacing the KC-135.

This addition of a new system to the inventory will down-the-road offer further opportunities for DRG to expand into that market. Traditionally Boeing will most likely received the first support contracts but as the KC-46A enters large scale service the government will look for other suppliers.

Unless the government makes a decision to begin growing the military and civilian workforce the use of contractors for support missions will continue and the market will remain viable for contractors such as DRG.

Photo from wbaiv’s flickr photostream.

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Just Ask The Question

October 16, 2009 by · Comment
Filed under: Syndicated Industry News 

One of the main reasons we created UnitedStatesTanker.com and this blog was to provide some insight into a very critical acquisition effort to replace America's air refueling tanker fleet.

For those who've been following that newly-started KC-X competition, you know the U.S. Air Force released their draft Request for Proposal (RFP) Sept. 25. This document goes into detail about the 373 requirements that must be met to participate in the competition. It also describes how proposals will be scored and even what happens in case of a tie. Our United States Tanker team has spent a great deal of time studying the draft RFP. Remember this is the main document we'll be using to decide which member of our KC-7A7 'family of tankers' to offer, or whether to offer both.

But we can't just make decisions on what's written in the document alone. Our main focus as we drive toward some key internal decisions is clarity. We must clearly understand how the service's requirements are defined and prioritized, and how our proposal will be evaluated.

So how do we get those answers? Simple...just ask.

Any company seeking to compete to build the replacement for the KC-135 Stratotanker fleet can submit questions to the KC-X Tanker Program Office at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Dayton, Ohio, and have them answered online at the Federal Business Opportunities website.

We began submitting questions earlier this month and look forward to seeing the answers posted on the public website soon. While some of that Q&A may be administrative in nature, you might gain some interesting insight into how the process works by checking out the site. Feel free to tell us what you'd ask.

Boeing Will Deliver

October 13, 2009 by · Comment
Filed under: Syndicated Industry News 

Hoping you'll read an interesting editorial ("This Time, Air Force Needs to Deliver") posted on the St. Petersburg Times website on the U.S. Air Force's KC-X Tanker competition.  It mentions nearby MacDill AFB (home to the active duty 6th Air Mobility Wing and its associate Air Force Reserve Command 927th Air Refueling Wing) and the KC-135R fleet assigned there.

Most of the editorial focuses on the new competition and how changes from past acquisition efforts will allow the Department of Defense and Air Force to make an "apples-to-apples comparison of the bids."

While most will be picking apart the Draft Request for Proposal and trying to forecast who may win next summer, the most compelling part of this piece was the reference to Air Force folks having to build their own spare parts since they were no longer available for the Eisenhower-era Stratotanker.

It's no secret that the KC-135 fleet needs to be replaced immediately. But as we enter into the KC-X competition and prepare our bid, we always remind our team how critically important the tanker fleet is to this nation, the urgency to win this contract and to start building new tankers.

The St. Petersburg Times suggests that the Air Force "procure a plane that meets its mission requirements for the right price." We firmly believe the Boeing Company and our Tanker Team will do just that by offering a combat-ready KC-7A7 tanker with max capability at lowest cost.

Reading Tea Leaves In Northrop’s Win Of KC-10 Maintenance Contract

October 6, 2009 by · Comment
Filed under: BNET 

The award to Northrop Grumman of a contract to support the U.S. Air Force’s KC-10 tanker fleet is making people think that Boeing will have issues…

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The Airbus Military A330 MRTT Has Successfully Performed First Contacts Using A New Generation Of Under-wing Hose And Drogue Refuelling Pods — Press Relase

The Airbus Military A330 MRTT Has Successfully Performed First Contacts Using A New Generation Of Under-wing Hose And Drogue Refuelling Pods

mrtt-oneThe Airbus Military A330 MRTT (Multi Role Tanker Transport) has completed another major milestone performing successfully a series of dry contacts using the new generation Cobham 905E hose and drogue refuelling pods, located under the wings. The receiver aircraft was a Spanish Air Force F/A-18A+ fighter.

The system performed well in hose extension and retraction, and showed good hose response in the contact as well as stability during pre-contact and when connected.

This new refuelling pod is a development of the 907E pod already in service with the Canadian and German air forces on their A310 MRTTs. The pods can each deliver up to 420 US gal/min (1600 litres/min) through a 90 ft (27.4 m) hose, and are controlled from a state-of-the-art Fuel Operator Console located in the cockpit.

“The next steps in the flight test program involve more contacts with the new hose and drogue refuelling pod and the advanced Aerial Refuelling Boom System (ARBS), refuelling a variety of receivers that will include French, Portuguese and Spanish small and large receiver aircraft. This flight test phase will lead us to the completion of military certification, and final qualification with our customer” said Miguel Morell, Vice President Airbus Military Derivative Programmes.

The A330 MRTT has been selected by the air forces of Australia, the United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, and was chosen last year by the U.S. Air Force for its recapitalization of the service’s aging tanker fleet.

Media contact:
José María Palomino Communications Airbus Military Tel.: +34 91 585 77 89
Barbara Kracht Communications Airbus Military Tel.: +34 91 585 77 89
Eduardo Galicia Communications Airbus Military Tel.: +34 91 585 77 89

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U.S. Company Receives FAA Certification For Russian Tanker Aircraft

il76Tactical Air Defense Services announced that the FAA certified their Illyushin IL-78 “Midas” tanker aircraft for use in the United States. The IL-72 and IL-76 transports and the IL-78 tanker variant have served the Soviet and Russian military for years successfully.

Due to the world’s shortage of heavy lift transport aircraft various Russian companies have made a living out of leasing their Antanov and Illyushin aircraft to support non-American Western military in their deployments and operations. This includes moving troops and supplies to Iraq and Afghanistan. For modern ground operations this kind of support is critical and there are only so many C-17 and C-5 aircraft to go around.

It only make sense that this would spread to use in the United States. The company intends to use the aircraft to support training operations as well as firefighting. There are certainly opportunities for both missions as the U.S. Air Force tanker fleet is also stretched as it waits for the KC-X contract to get going again.

Photo from jamesdale10 Flickr stream.

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