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KC-46 developments

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posted on Apr, 15 2015 @ 09:50 PM
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Some interesting developments in the KC-46 program, that could point to development problems.

First, the good news. Costs have dropped 5.4%. The 2011 estimate was $51.7B, in December it was $48.9B.

Here's where the fun starts. Boeing has to prove the technology before the Air Force will authorize production. The initial plan called for up to 2400 hours of testing, including 13 months with an actual KC-46 platform.

The new plan calls for three months with a KC-46 platform, and basically doing nothing but refueling trials, before the decision is made in October whether or not to go ahead.

The other big news was the announcement of candidate bases. They include Tinker AFB Oklahoma, Seymour- Johnson AFB North Carolina, Westover ARB Massachusetts, and Grissom ARB Indiana.

www.airforcetimes.com...

www.af.mil...




posted on Apr, 15 2015 @ 10:14 PM
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a reply to: Zaphod58

Massachusetts must have some good political pull to get Westover on that list of candidate bases. Wasn't expecting that one.



posted on Apr, 15 2015 @ 11:05 PM
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a reply to: justwanttofly

No kidding. I had to read it two or three times to make sure I read it right.



posted on Apr, 15 2015 @ 11:08 PM
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a reply to: justwanttofly

It's an odd spot for sure (but close to home!), but it's also just about the only airbase with any activity left in New England (Otis doesn't really count).

I can also see it making sense as a place to base tankers to "top off" whatever might be taking off from the Southwest and flying to Northern/Eastern Europe.



posted on Apr, 15 2015 @ 11:11 PM
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a reply to: Barnalby

Westover was a bomber/tanker base years ago.



posted on Apr, 15 2015 @ 11:23 PM
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a reply to: Zaphod58

And I still remember seeing C-5s and A-10s flying there as a kid.

Hell, I even remember seeing that kind of activity (and weird stuff like Douglas Skywarriors) flying around Hanscom.



posted on Apr, 16 2015 @ 12:17 AM
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a reply to: Barnalby

It doesn't really make much sense because there are tankers already based at Pease and Bangor. Especially when you realize that Pease is going to be the first Guard base to get the -46s, just up the road from Westover.



posted on Apr, 16 2015 @ 11:06 AM
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a reply to: justwanttofly

I forgot about the tankers at Pease, and hey, in our tiny-stated neck of the woods, Chicopee to Portsmouth is not "just up the road"! Go easy on us!

Realistically/politically, it's a little more complicated than that. Massachusetts's economy is in a very good place, but a very unequal one. Boston and (most!) everything around and inside 128 has been one of the biggest beneficiaries of the knowledge economy in this country this side of San Francisco, DC, or Austin. Unfortunately, the rest of the state has been getting worse as this is happening. So people in places like Springfield, Holyoke, Fall River/New Bedford, etc are looking at their crumbling main streets of vacant storefronts, rising crime rates, and falling incomes. Then they look to Boston, where 50-story towers of $15 million dollar condos are rising like beanstalks, and they're asking why they can't get their share.

The politicians know it, and they've had to back all sorts of ridiculousness to keep the people of "Massatucky" happy. We're getting billions to build a train (that nobody will ride) to Fall River and New Bedford to keep the people happy in their crumbling cities now that the fishing industry is about to go belly-up.

I'm sure basing KC-46s falls into the exact same territory.
edit on 16-4-2015 by Barnalby because: (no reason given)



posted on Apr, 16 2015 @ 11:31 AM
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a reply to: Zaphod58

Why are these better than the 135 stratofreighter?

I cant really see a difference that would make it "better".

Cant they just update the existing ones?


edit on 4 16 2015 by tadaman because: (no reason given)



posted on Apr, 16 2015 @ 11:54 AM
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a reply to: tadaman

The KC-46s provide a lot of advantages over the -135s. They can carry 3 times more cargo while holding the same amount of fuel and having 2 fuel delivery methods built in (boom and drogues). The -46s also provide a defensive suite that the -135s do not have.

The -135s are falling apart. Jets are showing up to depot in bad shape. They've been ridden hard for decades and have yet to be hung up to dry. It's time for a new tanker.



posted on Apr, 16 2015 @ 11:58 AM
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a reply to: tadaman

Political pork.

What irks me is that they aren't really bringing anything new to the table. When the KC-135 was first proposed, the rivets were still cooling off on the first 367-80 prototype, an aircraft that at the time might as well have been something out of a science fiction film.

Fast forward to nearly 60 years later in 2015, where we're spending an arm, a leg, and then some for the KC-46, a replacement tanker with an airframe design dating back to the Carter years. In other words, these "all-new" tankers airframe designs will be older than most of their pilots!

Personally, I understand that the 767 was the only airframe Boeing had in that size range when the bidding started for this, but at the same time, I wonder why the hell they didn't choose to base their proposal off of either the 777 (so the USAF can replace the KC-135s AND the KC-10s with one whack), or the 787 (so the new tanker will be as cutting-edge today as the KC-135s were in 1960).

It just doesn't make sense to me, especially given the runaway cost overruns on what should be a painfully-simple procurent.



posted on Apr, 16 2015 @ 12:12 PM
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a reply to: tadaman

You mean besides the fact that they're not fifty years old? There are huge advantages over the KC-135.



posted on Apr, 16 2015 @ 12:20 PM
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a reply to: Barnalby

First off, what overruns? It's a fixed price contract.

Secondly did you see the requirements? A 777 would have required building totally new infrastructure, as well as having a huge footprint compared to the 767. You would have paid more, and been able to fit fewer aircraft on a base.

So when were you planning on getting 787 tankers? Boeing would have had to build a dedicated line, again causing a huge price increase, or risk losing customers by shoving their orders back further into the backlog. Or get the new tanker in another five or six years, or longer, when the backlog was caught up.

They're not bringing anything new? What do you call a totally new fly by wire boom, controlled through a 3D camera system in the cockpit? Or self sufficient cargo loading ability?

Yes the 767 airframe was designed in the Carter administration. So what. They're brand new aircraft, with a lot of new features, not "political pork".



posted on Apr, 16 2015 @ 12:20 PM
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a reply to: Zaphod58

I get that you need new aircraft, I wonder why waste money on R&D if what comes out is basically an airframe that is nothing new. Like the poster before me said, its from the carter years. Thats what I first thought too at first glance. Then it turns out to not even carry that much more fuel or have higher ceiling really, etcetera.

I am probably the least informed person here, thats why I ask. If its going to be the replacement for the next 50 years, why not think out of the box and do something new?

I heard that there are designs for airframes for large tankers that are much sleeker and can cut air resistance in half, why not use one of them? Why not design a super sonic tanker? The airframes I heard of arent used SUPPOSEDLY because the cost of fuel would be greatly reduced and as such would "make us lose jobs and ruin the industry"...same old crap line.

I dont know. Like I said, I have barely enough to say to even comment on the subject.

I just see it and think, "oh another big dumb thing that looks like a civilian airliner".

Unless the inner workings are so much better...which makes me ask why those systems cant just be incorporated into the existing fleet? OR just build the same model down to the last curve all over again with updated internal systems.

You tell me man, I have no idea, thats why I ask.


edit on 4 16 2015 by tadaman because: (no reason given)



posted on Apr, 16 2015 @ 12:29 PM
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a reply to: tadaman

The 767s they're getting are brand new. They don't have the tooling anymore to build a 707 airframe, even if it was the best design. The fuel burn on the engines is significantly lower, it carries more cargo, it can offload more fuel, has more advanced systems, all while having a similar footprint and requiring minimum upgrading to existing infrastructure. All while using a proven design that has mature basic technology behind it.

Supersonic tankers don't get you any advantage. They burn more fuel going supersonic than they could offload.

A commercial base for a tanker is low risk, low cost, and has all the advantages over a clean sheet design with more bells and whistles. Putting the new technologies this aircraft has into the existing fleet, and upgrading them to be able to fly longer would cost as much, if not more than a totally new fleet of fewer aircraft that can move the same amount of fuel and cargo.



posted on Apr, 16 2015 @ 12:38 PM
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a reply to: Zaphod58

Fair enough. That makes sense I guess.

I just wish we had the means of making like a large air carrier that could double as a fueling freighter that can refuel several aircraft at once, launch drones, helicopters, and fighters, have on board defensive systems like a naval vessel, launch missiles and other ordnance down to ballistic missiles.....

I guess it would be a tempting target, though what if it also had orbital and reentry capabilities to make up for that? What if it was like a naval vessel, like a carrier that can also get airborne and even go into low orbit?

This is absurd, and I know that, but still....LOL

Our new fighters were designed with a little bit of dreaming and ambition.

What if we could AT LEAST refuel several aircraft at once? That would be a cool addition to our capabilities, no? Like a large wing with several booms?


edit on 4 16 2015 by tadaman because: (no reason given)



posted on Apr, 16 2015 @ 12:44 PM
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a reply to: Zaphod58

I get that it's really a "mostly new" aircraft Frankenstein-ed together from the component parts of all the various different 767 variants that Boeing built over the years.

I also get that since the 60s, Boeing has taken an "evolutionary rather than revolutionary" approach to designing new aircraft, just look at what the 737 started as and what it's become today. Also, remember that the 787 was the first all-new Boeing civilian aircraft since the 747 (the 777 used a 767 nose/cockpit, and the 767 was just the 757 wings and tail with a new fuselage, and the 757 was just a 707/720 fuselage with new wings and a new nose/tail).

That said, though the KC-46 has all sorts of innovations like the trick boom (though it remains to be seen how it fares with crews), the new avionics, the cargo system, etc, the fact remains that all of those subsystems could have just as easily been integrated into a new(er!) airframe, whether it was a smaller 777, a 787, or even a 737Max. 60 years ago, Boeing didn't care that military demand for -135s and civilian demand for 707s was both through the roof, they simply did what it took to build airframes, just as the USAF was willing to put up with small inconveniences to get a tanker that in its day was as fast as most fighters.

Fast forward to today, and Boeing doesn't want to open a second 787 line to build KC-787s, and the USAF doesn't care that they're being sold warmed-over leftovers with fancy seasonings for $50 billion and counting. It's just a sad state of affairs all around.



posted on Apr, 16 2015 @ 01:02 PM
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a reply to: tadaman

The problem that will always kill the BWB is the footprint. BWB's are like flying wings, and carry a much larger wingspan for a given payload than traditional craft do. Just look at the B-2, which is as wide as a B-52 and carries just a fraction of the payload.

This means that while you COULD build a BWB with the payload of a 777 that flies two or three booms so you can refuel multiple fighters at once, it would almost certainly have a wingspan even bigger than a C-5 or an A380! In other words, it would be extremely capable, but a basing nightmare unless you were willing to add even more weight/complexity with folding wings, etc.



posted on Apr, 16 2015 @ 02:26 PM
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a reply to: Barnalby

Way to totally ignore the parts about fitting in the same footprint and infrastructure. Yes, instead of getting tankers that can use the same hangars, by all means let's get bigger aircraft that require triple the investment to build entirely new hangars, and require twice the basing because we can't fit as many on one base.

That makes so much more sense, just so we can get a newer design.

edit on 4/16/2015 by Zaphod58 because: (no reason given)



posted on Apr, 16 2015 @ 02:44 PM
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a reply to: Zaphod58

I was mostly thinking about the 787, the plane that more or less killed the 767. It features a bigger wingspan, but a 787-8 is otherwise more or less in the same size range as a 767.

And honestly, this whole size/basing issue is all hooey to me. The USAF was all fine and dandy with adopting the 777-sized KC-30 until the Boeing lobby sued and and pushed for a politically-motivated reevaluation of the bids.

And IIRC, the A330-based KC-30 beat the KC-46 the first time around specifically because it was bigger and more capable!



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