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KC-46A Info

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So what’s the deal. Boeing fucking it up by the numbers?  USAF induced mission creep?  Both?  I was kind of up on things a couple years ago and knew of some of the problems with the program but they didn’t sound insurmountable and I would’ve expected a fix by now. Somehow Boeing managed to get the Navy their P-8s, which is a much more complex weapons system. Why can’t they manage to deliver tankers? Something tells me the USAF shoulders most of the blame here. 

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1 hour ago, Prozac said:

Why can’t they manage to deliver tankers? Something tells me the USAF shoulders most of the blame here. 

In this case, no. Been too long since they built a boom and took too much for granted, designed it wrong. And they cheaped out on the vision system and they're not ready to fix either the right way... Yet. Somehow the AF really isn't to blame on this one.

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Wow. Good to know. Still, can’t help but think that the established KC-767 already in use by the Japanese & Italians would’ve been a perfectly functional and safe bet. 

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Why we didn’t think the boom operator needed a window to be able to see the receiver is beyond me. So what happens when the video system (after they finally get it working) has some sort of maintenance issue? The tanker becomes a real expensive and complex 767 freighter. Just put the damn boom at the back of the jet like we’ve been doing for 60 years.


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4 hours ago, MooseAg03 said:

Why we didn’t think the boom operator needed a window to be able to see the receiver is beyond me. So what happens when the video system (after they finally get it working) has some sort of maintenance issue? The tanker becomes a real expensive and complex 767 freighter. Just put the damn boom at the back of the jet like we’ve been doing for 60 years.


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I talked to a Boeing Rep years ago at an ATA about that. He said the USAF couldn’t afford to have them redesign the empennage to have a Boom Pod/ARO.

Other countries have been flying the KC-30 with a camera system just fine, in color, unlike the Boeing system which is in black and white. Smartest thing the USAF did was a fixed price contract with this program.

 

Edited by Sua Sponte

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Other countries hav been flying the KDC-10 which has had a camera system far longer and the boom doesn’t have compatibility issues with some fighters (A330 MRTT has some issues still).

The KC-767 does not work well. Neither the Italians nor the Japanese are terribly happy with it.


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They made a helicopter to go with Frakentanker

200.gif

Buy an Airbus tanker for the strategic tanker if the 10 is to be retired, get some new tanker iron fast(er), light a fire under Big B to get their stuff in a sock.  

With no other competition for heavy military aircraft they've become complacent.

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2 hours ago, Clark Griswold said:

They made a helicopter to go with Frakentanker

200.gif

Buy an Airbus tanker for the strategic tanker if the 10 is to be retired, get some new tanker iron fast(er), light a fire under Big B to get their stuff in a sock.  

With no other competition for heavy military aircraft they've become complacent.

While I'm not a fan of the Airbus (it is still having problems) and the fee-for-service mentioned in your previous post (ask the RAF about this) one thing is certain. The KC-46 will never replace either the KC-135 or the KC-10 in capability and in the numbers we have now. There are a few USAF reports floating around that discuss SLEPing KC-135s, retiring the KC-10 and replacing all KC-10s and some 135s with the KC-46. But like anything AF, it'll take a 69 different committees, tiger teams, SSS and TMTs to even start down the road of developing and executing a plan.

The KC-46 is not a good replacement for either jet. And, IMHO, the AF is making a bad decision if they don't replace the KC-10 with a KC-10 like aircraft, especially when talking CORONETS or conventional long range support. But something has to be done, and I agree with you that we have got to find a good replacement for the KC-10. Maybe a little bit of competition will finally get Boeing motivated to unfvck the KC-46 and force them to look seriously at big wing military jets in the future.

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But like anything AF, it'll take a 69 different committees, tiger teams, SSS and TMTs to even start down the road of developing and executing a plan.


This guy staffs.

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7 hours ago, Right Seat Driver said:

While I'm not a fan of the Airbus (it is still having problems) and the fee-for-service mentioned in your previous post (ask the RAF about this) one thing is certain. The KC-46 will never replace either the KC-135 or the KC-10 in capability and in the numbers we have now. There are a few USAF reports floating around that discuss SLEPing KC-135s, retiring the KC-10 and replacing all KC-10s and some 135s with the KC-46. But like anything AF, it'll take a 69 different committees, tiger teams, SSS and TMTs to even start down the road of developing and executing a plan.

The KC-46 is not a good replacement for either jet. And, IMHO, the AF is making a bad decision if they don't replace the KC-10 with a KC-10 like aircraft, especially when talking CORONETS or conventional long range support. But something has to be done, and I agree with you that we have got to find a good replacement for the KC-10. Maybe a little bit of competition will finally get Boeing motivated to unfvck the KC-46 and force them to look seriously at big wing military jets in the future.

Copy all

Not an advocate for privatized AR, not opposed to it, but believe it should be a small niche in the way we provide operational support.

Curious, how much does the RAF rely on commercial AR?  Didn't know they used it.

No  doubt the KC-330 is not perfect but given that it is operational now, that is a strong point for acquisition for the USAF IMHO.  777 tanker would be a better choice (assuming a conventional AR capability installation, no camera system but a boom pod) for a replacement strategic tanker but that's only vaporware so go with what is available now IMHO again. 

The 46 ain't perfect but it is what we will have, 34 on the ramp waiting to be fixed and delivered to the AF.  But will it make sense to operate a mixed fleet of medium tankers when the 46 is minimally acceptable for ops?

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21 minutes ago, Clark Griswold said:

Copy all

Not an advocate for privatized AR, not opposed to it, but believe it should be a small niche in the way we provide operational support.

Curious, how much does the RAF rely on commercial AR?  Didn't know they used it.

No  doubt the KC-330 is not perfect but given that it is operational now, that is a strong point for acquisition for the USAF IMHO.  777 tanker would be a better choice (assuming a conventional AR capability installation, no camera system but a boom pod) for a replacement strategic tanker but that's only vaporware so go with what is available now IMHO again. 

The 46 ain't perfect but it is what we will have, 34 on the ramp waiting to be fixed and delivered to the AF.  But will it make sense to operate a mixed fleet of medium tankers when the 46 is minimally acceptable for ops?

I am not an advocate for privatized AR, but I think privatized AR has a place in the USAF just like contract ADAIR or TES support. But this is a slippery slope. There are a lot of second and third order effects to the tanker force if we start contracting out AR. Namely, MAC, er...I mean AMC will say "let's keep all of the tanker dudes down range while contract AR accomplishes stateside AR requirements and CORONET movements to just outside the AOR." Also, I have a hard time placing such a strategic capability in the hands of contract officers and contractors.

I am not sure of the most current numbers, but the RAF has a mix of "military" and non-military KC2s/3s that can fly both as military and civilian jets. IIRC, the RAF has a total of 15 jets at their disposal, but out of the 15, three or four of them would retain civilian liveries, registration numbers and would not have the AAR kit installed. And the RAF does not own the jets, it is similar to the 767 lease debacles of the 1990s. Besides the jet issue, there is a very complicated crew force mix that includes RAF Active Duty, reserves and civilian contractors that can fly the jet in different and very limited roles. So not only does the RAF not own the jets, but they may lack the capability to task jets to hack the mission down-range. Unlike the USAF, the RAF, Canadians and other militaries use their tankers to transport their forces downrange and back. So in the RAF example, a KC2 or 3 could be flying with a contract aircrew with a bunch of SAS dudes in the back bound for Muscat. The jet lands and off-loads the PAX, and now the RAF wants to put that jet into the ATO. Unfortunately they can't, and now the RAF has to fly dudes out commercial to pick up the ATO line and fly the civilians back to the UK. The Airbus-LM handshake doesn't address this issue. There's a lot of thought that needs to be put into this.

Honestly, the Airbus is over-hyped and the latest Airbus-LM photo shoot is mostly political, IMHO. However, I was glad to see it. Boeing took a lot for granted, and so did USAF. Believe me, I fly the KC-135 and love it, and I'm glad we're getting another Boeing tanker, but damn it LeMay would have gone somewhere else if this shit was going down in 1955. Put a damn boom sighting window in the back of the KC-46 and tell the FAA to go fvck themselves because of airworthiness requirements.

But, the USAF's current state of tankers is embarrassing. The 135 has a lot of life left, but right now the SPO is way behind the power curve to keep the jet ICW basic airspace regulations. And let's not talk about the jet's ability to survive in a near-peer threat. We are so limited in SA because MAC/SPO/USAF in general just assumed the 135 would go away. Now, it'll be 2050 before the jet retires and everyone is scrambling to figure out how to get gas to the shooters and survive tankers to fly another ATO.

The KC-46 does a great job on paper in this regard. It is supposed to have the sensors, Link, etc capabilities to fly in a near-peer environment and accomplish its primary mission of AR. But right now none of that is proven. So, in the mean-time, we have to figure out how to fight a war with legacy tankers while fielding a new jet.

Eventually, I truly do feel the 46 will be able to get the job done and provide SA to not only tanker crews but anyone who is on the Link. But that will leave a big gap in a strategic tanker realm. And that is where I agree with you. Put a boom and MPRS on the 777 and call it good, with a boom sighting window. The USAF will always need a strategic tanker to get fighters downrange, and that is where the KC-10 excels. The 777 can fill that role with ease, and every 135 and 46 crew dawg out there will be more than happy to consol into it, sts.

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9 hours ago, Champ Kind said:

 


This guy staffs.

 

Hah, fortunately I am career line guy with A LOT of staff exposure. I've spent a few too many TDYs trying to sell good ideas to the staff. And I mean good ideas as in the staff should have accepted them.

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16 hours ago, Right Seat Driver said:

... good words...

That's exactly what I thought also about significant use of commercial AR (status issues for crew, civilian vs. state aircraft issues, ownership of iron, logistics problems because of those factors, etc...).

Ditto on contractors stateside and all military crew dawgs permanently in the sandbox fears.  If this idea is percolating in the Building, I hope a tanker toad is at the table to make the case that CONUS based AR in training, exercises, business efforts, etc... is important as it builds experience prior to deployment, there is only so much that can be simulated and dealing with X factors in the air is how airmanship is made.

On tanker capability I am with you on the need for a new strategic tanker or getting the 10 upgraded, somehow FedEx got theirs done.

I am though starting to think we are using the past too much as a model for how we will operate in the future, what I mean by that is that the last 25 years have been over uncontested airspace with the very late "Grey Zone" AOR of Eastern Syria with Russian SAMs and Fighters capable of threatening but choosing not to.  

A spectrum of tanker capabilities with increasing ability to sense/defend against threats inverse to size is where we should be moving to IMHO.  We sorta have that but are only meandering that way, it should be our procurement strategy for Air Refuelling for Mobility and Persistence.

Strategic and Medium can be met with a 777 tanker or updated KC-10 and KC-46 (fixed) respectively.  The new level needed IMHO is a tactical tanker, LO not required but Reduced Signature with self-defense & some EW with networked capabilities, lower off load required as it is designed to give strikers a last shot of gas just prior to ingress or a small shot on egress with the tanker itself having a relatively short on-station time.  Basically the Israeli proposed Small Smart Tactical Tanker.  

Looking at a G600

g600-side-view.png

I wonder if with a ton of money you could modify for lower signature with reshaped engine nacelles, delete the winglets, V-tail, recessed antennas, etc... and add hard points (2 wing, maybe 3 centerline),  air to air radar with a new light weight boom.  Wouldn't have to go deep into the WEZ sts but close enough or inside the A2AD area to be useful but not a liability as it would not need excessive DCA coverage.

Edited by Clark Griswold

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2 hours ago, Clark Griswold said:

I wonder if with a ton of money you could modify...

Key words being "ton of money"  It is freaking expensive to modify airplanes.  Especially FAA certified ones.

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2 hours ago, Tonka said:

Key words being "ton of money"  It is freaking expensive to modify airplanes.  Especially FAA certified ones.

Yup.

The thing about the "tactical tanker" is that it is / probably would be the right amount of AR capability + strike support (Comm, EW, ISR, weapons truck, etc...) that a lot of Allies would want in one aircraft without the larger cost / footprint of a medium weight tanker.

Enough AR to extend your punch but not so much for Global Reach (at least not without some leap frogging).  Cheaper to train with and if you don't need the boom for your receivers it likely would way less technically complicated.

How to pay for it is the 6.9 billion dollar question along with everything else...

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