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Lockheed Discusses its Potential KC-Z Designs

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posted on Sep, 20 2018 @ 11:31 AM
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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 well.

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 concept 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.


“Imagine MQ-25 with that [improved stealthy] signature ability and perhaps longer legs,” says Jack O’Banion, vice president of strategy at Skunk Works.


Aviation week link.

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 to elaborate.


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:

Zaphod link:
www.abovetopsecret.com...

Aviation Week link:
aviationweek.com...



GD

posted on Sep, 20 2018 @ 08:46 PM
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Stealthy refueling would be one hell of a force multiplier. Couple that with the deployment of the sensor fusion the US is working on and you could deploy an almost invisible strike package with unheard of range. Amazing developments. a reply to: anzha



posted on Jan, 29 2019 @ 06:40 AM
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KC-Z may not be stealthy:

aviationweek.com...



posted on Jan, 29 2019 @ 07:36 AM
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a reply to: anzha

Coming to their senses, are they?



posted on Jan, 29 2019 @ 08:54 AM
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Why would you want yet another none stealhty tanker when the KC-46 will become operational sooner or later?



posted on Jan, 29 2019 @ 09:28 AM
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a reply to: anzha


“I actually don’t know if the next version of tanker operates in the air or operates at low Earth orbit,” he said. “I don’t know if it’s manned or unmanned, and I actually don’t care that much as long as it brings the attributes we need to win.”


Ugh.



posted on Jan, 29 2019 @ 10:40 AM
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a reply to: RadioRobert

Perhaps. I can see Shanahan likely being the cause. Boeing has a lot more competition in a race for a stealthy tanker.

Normally, I just think it was a cost thing. OTOH, give the blatant handout with the F-15X, I'm not so sure.

Re: mightmight.

Because the KC-10s are already in the 20 to 30 year old range and the KC-46 has a significantly lower fuel load.

If we are going a nonstealthy route, I still like turning the Roc - stratolaunch's big bird - into a tanker. A giant fuel pod in the middle would almost assuredly carry more fuel than the KC-10: the external payload there is 550k lbs. I doubt even a mongo sized pod would weigh 200k lbs, but even if it did, the fuel capacity would equal the KC-10. Nifty part would be a cargo pod could be carried instead...and 550k lbs is...a lot. Around C-5M territory, but with a wrapper, would probably be less.

I know. I know. Pipe dream territory: the whole thing is a one off and making it a manufacturable aircraft rather than custom would entail some nontrivial (snicker) changes.



posted on Jan, 29 2019 @ 10:53 AM
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a reply to: anzha

i think it would be silly to get all the new tankers in the stealth trim line, there's no need.



,ay be a small handful of them from manned or unmanned ISR or strike missions.



posted on Jan, 29 2019 @ 10:55 AM
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a reply to: penroc3

A tanker force that could go in even close to where the strike package is would change things in a huge way. You could hit targets further in and increase your loiter time radically.



posted on Jan, 29 2019 @ 10:57 AM
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a reply to: anzha

You'd be severely limited in useable fields if you had a Roc for cargo or fuel. I also don't even want to know what vortices would be like.

It's money. They don't have it. The name of the game in tanking is $/lb. A stealthy tanker force would fall firmly in the expensive niche category. Maybe they should have given EADS the tanker contract and retired everything else.



posted on Jan, 29 2019 @ 11:26 AM
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a reply to: Zaphod58

right, but i dont think there is a need for every single one being a stealth variant.


if you had one maybe two wings of the stealthy ones to fuel the guys ringing the doorbell seems like a good compromise.

that way we get new tankers AND stealthy ones in one deal



posted on Jan, 29 2019 @ 11:32 AM
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a reply to: penroc3

They're not talking about all of them. KC-Z was to replace whatever tankers didn't get replaced under the other two programs.



posted on Jan, 29 2019 @ 12:00 PM
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originally posted by: anzha
a reply to: RadioRobert


Because the KC-10s are already in the 20 to 30 year old range and the KC-46 has a significantly lower fuel load.



Right. And again untold billions down the drain for marginal military gain. There is nothing wrong with the KC-10s. Focus on procuring as many KC-46 as possible and take another look twenty years from now if a stealth tanker isnt affordable.



posted on Jan, 29 2019 @ 12:09 PM
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a reply to: mightmight

You do realize airframe fatigue is a real thing right? That's just from normal use.

By the time the new aircraft is joining the fleet, the age of the KC-10s will in the 30 to 40 year old range.

The B-52 use case is not the ideal one, y'know.



posted on Jan, 29 2019 @ 12:09 PM
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a reply to: mightmight

Yeah, there is. They're maintenance heavy and getting worse. The guys working them are busting their ass keeping their mission capable rates up. If you wait 20 years to even start replacing them, you won't have many left flying.
edit on 1/29/2019 by Zaphod58 because: (no reason given)



posted on Jan, 29 2019 @ 12:42 PM
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The KC-135 will be up up to what, 80 years old. I think the KC-10 could handle half that before stressing out about a replacement. It also shouldnt take two decades to replace a whopping 50+ aircraft.

The mission capable rates for the KC-10s are not bad at all from what you can read. Substantially better than most actually.



posted on Jan, 29 2019 @ 12:57 PM
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a reply to: mightmight

10 years can and will cause issues with that readiness rate. It will get worse.

The KC-135 replacement is underway and the USAF signaled they'll probably buy more KC-46 to replace more if not most.

We have postponed the replacements of equipment for ages. it's coming up all at once and a real problem.

Our transports are going to be a problem next.



posted on Jan, 29 2019 @ 01:13 PM
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a reply to: anzha

Of course it gets worse. But is it still good enough and for how long?
The USAF will more likley than not be short on cash ten years from now. The next administration wont be as forthcoming as far as the budget is concerned and procurement programs will get strechted out. They will have to focus on what's needed, not on what would be nice to have.
Once the KC-46 production gets rolling properly there will be an affordable good enough option available to also replace the KC-10s if and when needed. More likley than not the Air Force will end up retiring them without replacement anyway.

They'll fly the C-17s until they drop, push yet another C-130 evolution and the C-5Ms wont go anywhere until the turn of the century. We'll be having lots of fun with the equally unaffordable *Joint Super Heavy Airlift Program* with 500 Mil per airplane...


edit on 29-1-2019 by mightmight because: (no reason given)



posted on Jan, 29 2019 @ 02:42 PM
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a reply to: mightmight

The acceptable readiness rate would be one thing if we were still in the post Cold War, pre rise of China and return of the obnoxious (proverbially speaking) Russians; however, we're almost to a multipolar world again. Not yet, but close. With the multipolar world, we're going to need to be able respond and act in Asia and Europe, plus whatever is going to crop up in the Middle East (the 21st century equivalent of the balkans) and probably now Africa.

After we transition out of fossil fuels, we can probably shrug off the Middle East and if Europe would actually take responsibility for their own defense, we could largely pull out of that. That'd still leave Asia and Africa. Alas, the energy transition isn't done yet and Europe is showing no signs of taking care of itself, so...we need our kit to be up to snuff.

At least until we Americans decide we're done being the world police. That hasn't happened yet and until Americans do, we have a job that requires tools and the tools need to work when we need them. And that doesn't mean just during 'normal operations.' Militaries are meant to make war, not just patrol.



posted on Jan, 29 2019 @ 03:05 PM
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Yes.
And meanwhile the federal budget is ballooning, there is already talk about shrinking defense budgets with the next fiscal cycle and the next democratic admin will ramp up social spending up to high heaven on top of what is already unsustainable long term.
I love printing money as much as the next guy, but the reality is the Air Force won’t see significantly more than about 160 billion a year anytime soon. With an easy dozen truly critical procurement projects already in the pipeline I see little to no justification for nice to have programs in the billion range
Commitments or not, either the Air Force takes a serious and painful look at all their pork spending or they won’t have nearly as much as they need to overhaul even half their inventory in the decades to come.

Off topic but these realities are part of the reason why I think the US will turn back to its pre WW1 isolationist tendencies in this century. The reality is, the people want social welfare, they don’t want to rule the world.




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