The plans for US tankers has been a mess for a long time. The latest tanker, the KC-46 Pegasus, has had a messy and sordid procurement with protests
and even bribery. And then development process has been a messy prospect as well with the constant stream of problems and delays. However, the first
Pegasus is still expected to be delivered by the end of October, despite it all. The Pegasus was the KC-X. There was a planned KC-Y and KC-Z as
The KC-Y now seems to be pretty much been abandoned. This was supposed to be another nonstealthy tanker. However, the KC-Z was planned to be a
stealthy tanker. How stealthy remains to be seen. Sometimes, it has been suggested to be a reduced signature or managed signature platform rather
than a low observable one. The USAF hasn't set the requires as yet and, if anything, they are probably having a bun fight in the Pentagon over it.
It does appear the KC-Y will be shelved - this has sounded like the plan for some time, actually - and the USAF will move forward with the KC-Z.
Boeing and Lockheed are working on their designs. Zaph wrote about the previous
Lockheed has, a stealthy blended wing-body. In Aviation Week, today, Lockheed discusses what they are thinking at the moment. It
sounds as though they are continuing the work on the blended wing/body design, but are also working on a flying wing.
Aviation week link
“Imagine MQ-25 with that [improved stealthy] signature ability and perhaps longer legs,” says Jack O’Banion, vice president of strategy
at Skunk Works.
One of the interesting bits is they are talking about the ability to remain stealthy while refueling an aircraft. However...
The Lockheed KC-Z also would use an unconventional refueling approach that preserves the aircraft’s stealthy profile, but O’Banion declines
We can all speculate as to what it is, but it is interesting.
Their operational concept, where a Pegasus would refuel the KC-Zs outside disputed airspace is interesting, as well.
We'll wait and see. Hopefully, the USAF won't screw this up like they did the Pegasus. It's been a decade late as it is. Oy.
FWIW, as I understand, Boeing is supposed to be working on its blended wing-body design as well.
For those of you wary of embedded links:
Aviation Week link: