posted on Apr, 7 2008 @ 12:27 AM
TextThe C-135 Stratolifter is the best example Id say of this type of a/cwith more variants and missions than you can shake a stick at.
The Boeing 707/C-135 series has been the biggest successful attempt at a common large airframe among the major air forces to date.
In the 1970s Rockwell pitched a series of aircraft performing tanking, maritime patrol, fast-jet cargo, AEW, ECM, etc. jobs based upon the B-1 in
order to improve its chances of a contract and lower it's overall unit cost via volume. It really didn't fly due to the inheherent flaws in the
airframe when it comes to moving economical amounts of avgas or cargo versus it's physical size.
The 747 was tossed around for a number of jobs in the -80's ranging from mass ALCM carrying, to ICBM bearing, to aerial refuelling, to heavily
modified bomb trucking, and AEW. Too big and too pricey for most jobs pitched.
As noted above, there really isn't "one" airframe available today that can do all jobs a military might have for a large, multi-engined platform.
There are those off-the-shelf aircraft that can do a good number of things.......Boeing 767/Airbus A310 as common platform for tanking, AEW, general
transport.....Boeing 737/Airbus A319 as AEW, patrol, ASW....and they are very viable. But none of these make a good bomb-hauler or penetrator while
making very good starts for tankers or AWACS or long-haul cargo.
Designing a purpose-built outsized cargo/tanker/AWACS/maritime aircraft from the outset to be produced in the hundreds or thousands today is pretty
much unlikely especially for the USAF.
#1-The USAF relies entirely upon boom refuelling.....perfect for an "airliner" type airplane. Ask Boeing to create a tanking version of the C-17
and watch the scramble to begin to redesign the rear half of the airplane eliminating the cargo doors and changing the aircraft's structure to
accomodate a flying boom. Note, that as much as Boeing would like to the KC-45 contract, they didn't even attempt to offer a tanker version of the
C-17 preferring instead to modify their 767. Too many differences.
#2-The differences between a high-flying general lifter and a low-flying combination tactical/strategic airlifter are big. If an A310/330 can do the
same job as a C-17 or A-300...........why do they look so different??? One could conceivably build a CLA aircraft to do all but it would be a
compromise airplane that did none of the prescribed jobs very well while performing them all with a lacking.
Today, the USAF is nodding toward NG/EADS KC-30 as a tanking/transport plane and I can see it inheriting some of the 707's other military roles such
as AWACS or Elint in the same fashion. It's too much airplane for ASW/maritime patrol for the USN and that's why the 737-derived option is
underway. The 767 would be as well.