Archive for October, 2010

Israeli Modified 767 Tanker for Colombia Seen

Israeli Aerospace Industries (IAI) has been modifying at least one Boeing (BA) 767 aircraft to be a tanker for the Colombian Air Force. The major difference between this aircraft and the KC-X the U.S. Air Force is buying is that it doesn’t rely on a boom for refueling but just the drogue and hose system.

A photo of the aircraft named “Jupiter” was taken recently and posted at Airliners.net. It may be found here.

The aircraft is painted in the correct national markings and has camouflage. It has a pod under each wing for the drogue to refuel aircraft.

Boeing is proposing a version of their 767 aircraft for the KC-X as well as building tankers for Italy and Japan. IAI’s product demonstrates that the 767 is certainly flexible enough to be modified for the tanker mission. It also raises the question about why the new tanker for the Air Force has taken so long to get off of the ground.

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Is KC-X It For Tanker Acquisitions?

This past week a study was released prepared by analyst Rebecca Grant on the KC-X program as a whole. Grant is the head of the think tank IRIS.

The report may be found here.

Grant believes that due to budgetary constraints the KC-X buy will be the only new tanker purchased and that the Air Force’s follow on KC-Y and KC-Z increments won’t happen.

She also believes that the use of the aircraft to support operations in the Pacific will be paramount over other planned missions. This drives her to conclude that large fuel capacity and range will be two of the capabilities driving the Air Force’s source selection decision.

Those two factors favor the larger EADS (EADS:P) A330 based system over Boeing’s (BA) 767 tanker aircraft.

If the second and third increments of aircraft are not purchased it would be a blow to both aerospace companies as the Air Force has said that they might be new competitions rather then just buys of the KC-X winner which makes sense as ultimately the Air Force does need to buy a replacement for the KC-10.

Ms. Grant’s thoughts have caused a great deal of thought and comment as the military nears its decision on which aircraft to buy.

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Air Force Hedging on KC-X Award Date

First the contract was going to start in November. Then it was an award in November. Now the U.S. Air Force is saying a winner will be announced in the next few months or so.

Using the argument that it is better to do something right not quick the Air Force chief of staff, General Schwartz, did not commit to the November date or even this year.

This is not surprising considering the complexity of the proposals and the history of this contract. To avoid a protest which will cause further delays to buying the new aerial tanker the source selection must be thorough and done in such a way that the loser cannot feel discriminated against.

A protest by the loser be it Boeing (BA) or EADS (EADS:P) is expected but there is always a chance that they will take the loss graciously and it may be hoped their political supporters as well.

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GAO Denies U.S Aerospace’s Protest

The third bidder for the KC-X tanker contract, U.S. Aerospace (USAE) and its Ukrainian partner Antonov, had their protest denied yesterday by the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

The company had filed the protest because the Air Force had said their proposal was delivered past the deadline for submission. U.S. Aerospace claimed that their courier was deliberately delayed and should have been allowed to make the delivery on time.

This decision leaves only the Boeing (BA) and EADS (EADS:P) bids as being considered for the contract. The Air Force had previously said that a decision would be announced around the middle of November but there have been reports that this might slip.

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A330 Tanker Reportedly Receives Military Certification

The EADS (EADS:P) subsidiary Airbus built tanker reportedly received its military certification from Spain’s military certification authority, INTA. While the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) does certify civil aircraft for many different nations it does not military systems. EADS needed a military certification authority to do that and used Spains.

The A330 MRTT is being built for Australia and the United Kingdom to perform aerial refueling missions. It has also been proposed by EADS for the U.S. Air Force’s KC-X contract as well as some Middle Eastern customers.

Military certification is a step forward in the process of the aircraft being accepted for use by its customers. The program has seen some delays but is moving forward into service with Australia and then Great Britain.

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