Boeing Issues Contracts for Cargo Nets

Boeing (BA) issued a contract to AmSafe Industries Inc. to manufacture the internal cargo nets for the KC-46A tanker aircraft. The contract has a value of about $45 million.

The barrier net system will be used to restrain and contain cargo inside the aircraft. One of the secondary missions of the modified 767 tanker being built by Boeing is to carry cargo and these nets are key to ensuring a safe flight.

AmSafe is one of the world’s leading manufacturer of these type of systems. They also build safety curtains as part of this to prevent any fire and smoke from the cargo area entering the cockpit and crew areas.

The KC-46A program is continuing a pace with the first aircraft expected to be flown in 2015. Ultimately the Air Force could buy over 170 of the aircraft from this contract.

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EADS Claims Able to Lower Price on Offer This Time Around

With the submission of their second proposal for the KC-X aerial tanker program EADS (EADS:P) stated that due to production increases they were able to lower the price on their KC-30 tanker aircraft. Chairman of EADS North America, Ralph Crosby, said by about six percent.

EADS and Boeing (BA) are trying for a second time to win the new tanker for the U.S. Air Force that will replace the aging KC-135R aircraft. In 2008 EADS which was teamed with Northrop Grumman (NOC) won the last contest which was overturned on protest by Boeing. The two companies submitted their final proposals last week.

Boeing has not provided such details but has previously stated that their smaller KC-767 aircraft has better fuel efficiency and maintenance costs that will save the Air Force money over the long run.

In recent testimony the Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, indicated that the award announcement will be made in a few weeks following up on the Air Force’s budget document which indicated prior to April 1st.

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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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Working Through the Process

Just wanted to comment on a Reuters story ("U.S. tanker aircraft rules spark concern in industry") that hit the wire last night. It describes "industry executives as starting to raise fundamental questions" about the U.S. Air Force's KC-X Tanker draft Request for Proposal released Sept. 25. If you've been following our blog, we've been very clear about how we’re approaching this. We continue to submit our draft RFP questions to the program office and see them answered at the Federal Business Opportunities website. Now, I don't know who the anonymous quotes were from, and it is not my concern to try and find out. (I can tell you it wasn't me.) I do know, however, that our competitors held a number of "on-background" briefings with reporters yesterday on the draft-RFP.

The bottom line is that the U.S. Air Force is running this tanker competition and both sides have to step forward and meet their mandatory requirements. We will continue to work through the process and look forward to offering a KC-7A7 combat-ready tanker featuring max capability at lowest cost for America.

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Tanker Buzz at the AFA Convention

We’re excited to be at the Air Force Association’s annual convention today (View our presentation), participating in the vibrant community that is unique to the Air Force. One of the most talked about topics here at the convention is the Air Force’s upcoming competition to build a new fleet of tanker refueling aircraft – a competition that Boeing is proud to take part in.

Soon, the Pentagon will release its draft request for proposals for new tankers. We’re looking forward to working with the Air Force to understand these requirements so we can offer the most capable tanker to the warfighter at the best value for the taxpayer.

Boeing’s decades-long experience in building 2,000 tankers and in manufacturing derivative aircraft to meet specific Air Force missions gives us an edge over the competition in putting together the most technologically advanced proposal that will be tailored to meet the Air Force’s specific needs.

Although Boeing has many options to consider, there are three fundamental reasons why we can offer the most capable and best value tanker to the Air Force:

Boeing’s Tanker Will Be Mission Ready. Boeing is the only company whose boom-equipped tanker aircraft are flying in combat missions today. And independent reports show that its new advanced tanker designs will be the most survivable and dependable tanker aircraft in history. Boeing’s powerful blend of innovation and experience will deliver the most capable tanker to the warfighter, built to perform on command in the crucible of combat.

Boeing’s Tanker Will Be American-Designed. America’s aerospace industry leads the world in cutting-edge technology and the highest-quality manufacturing. As a result, Boeing will be able to offer 5th generation boom technology with fly-by-wire design, a state-of-the-art flight deck and a proven airframe that will last the next 50 years and beyond.

Boeing’s Tanker Will Offer Maximum Capability At Less Cost. Whether the Air Force is looking for an expeditionary tanker as a replacement for the KC-135 or a tanker with increased cargo and fuel capacities, Boeing has an outstanding portfolio of commercial aircraft that will make great air refueling tankers. Boeing is uniquely positioned today to manufacture the most technologically advanced and capable aircraft using economies of scale that will lower cost and risk for taxpayers.

Tanker aircraft and the brave crews that fly them are known as the workhorses of the Air Force – the aircraft that enable fighters, bombers, and cargo aircraft to fly farther and faster, to complete their missions and return home safely.

Boeing looks forward to developing what we believe will be the most capable and best value tanker for the Air Force and we’re glad to be sharing our passion for tankers with the Air Force community here at AFA.

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Boeing Knows How

If you’re a tanker pilot cruising 30,000 feet above the ground while transferring fuel to a hundred-million-dollar fighter jet bound for a critical air superiority mission, you want to have absolute confidence in your plane.

You need confidence that your aircraft will fly with precision, your refueling boom will lock onto the receiving aircraft like it’s on a tractor beam, and the fuel will flow quickly and smoothly.

Boeing is the only aircraft maker in the world that can give U.S. airmen that confidence. Why? Because for nearly six decades, Boeing has produced tanker aircraft that are the gold standard for in-flight refueling, using a patented boom refueling system and superior airframes.

The Air Force first turned to Boeing in the 1940s to retrofit B-29 bombers as refueling aircraft. It was then that Boeing developed the first patented "flying boom" system, which transferred fuel much faster than "hose and drogue" systems that were in use. A few years later, the Air Force purchased more than 811 of Boeing’s KC-97 Stratotankers – the first specialized tanker aircraft – which gave the U.S. air superiority on a truly global scale.

Boeing has always made state-of-the-art technology and quality manufacturing its top priorities.

Boeing continues to update the original KC-135 tankers that the Pentagon purchased in the 1950s and 1960s, and despite their age, those tankers are still the workhorses of the Air Force refueling fleet. Many other countries, including France, Singapore and Turkey, fly the KC-135 tankers or similar variants.

Chalk it up to a forward-thinking design and a uniquely experienced work force: Boeing builds tankers on the cutting edge of technology that are also built to last.

Boeing’s KC-7A7 designs continue that legacy of refueling expertise and excellence. Benefiting from fifth-generation flying boom technology, the KC-7A7 transfers fuel more safely and more reliably than any other aircraft in the world. And advanced avionics and proven airframes make them the most survivable and nimble widebody aircraft ever.

The U.S. Air Force needs the world’s best tanker aircraft to maintain its global reach for the next half century. It needs the United States’ next tanker: the KC-7A7.

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Tanker 101

Tanker aircraft and their crews help put the “superior” in U.S. air superiority.

Tankers enable fighter and bomber aircraft to reach targets further into enemy territory, airlift aircraft to haul equipment across the globe and surveillance aircraft to loiter for extended periods over critical airspace. Tankers are also capable of transporting cargo, people and equipment to bases almost anywhere in the world.

Each time a C-17 delivers critical supplies or food, a B-2 bomber targets an insurgent safe house, or an F/A-18 sets out on a mission to provide aerial support, the tankers are there behind the scenes, flying multiple sorties to get those planes the fuel that they need to complete their missions.

Yet many people still don’t truly understand what a tanker is, and how it does its job. Aerial refueling can be described as an aerial ballet conducted at 30,000 feet where thousands of pounds of fuel pass between two aircraft traveling at more than 450 mph. Tanker missions require detailed planning and constant training to ensure things go off without a hitch. Most tankers are based on the airframes of commercial jetliners, modified to carry hundreds of thousands of pounds of fuel in addition to pallets of cargo.

Experienced tanker crews make it look easy, but fighter, bomber and airlift pilots will tell you that there’s no room for mistakes.

When the receiver aircraft enters the preplanned air refueling track, the tanker aircraft turns to fly directly toward the incoming plane at closure rates approaching 900 knots. At a predetermined point the tanker executes a 180-degree turn to roll out in a position one mile ahead of and 1,000 feet above the receiver aircraft. Then the thirsty aircraft gets the signal to climb into position a mere 20 feet behind the tanker aircraft, traveling between 190 and 320 knots indicated airspeed (KIAS).

There are two basic refueling methods: (1) a telescoping “flying boom” attached to the rear of the aircraft, or (2) a flexible “hose and drogue” system mounted either to fuel pods on the wings or at the rear of the aircraft.

Invented by Boeing in 1948, the flying boom system enables a tanker to transfer over 900 gallons of gas per minute to an aircraft, a rate which could fill a typical automobile gas tank in just over one second. This rate is essential when refueling bombers or long-haul airlift jets. Why is it called the flying boom? Because the boom operator controls two small wings on the boom that literally fly it to the fuel receptacle on the receiver aircraft. Boeing’s KC-7A7 tankers are the only aircraft to use fifth-generation boom technology.

On the other hand, the hose and drogue system simply extends or trails a 70-90 foot hose with an aerodynamic basket behind the aircraft, positioning it directly in front of the receiver aircraft. The hose and drogue method delivers the fuel at a much slower rate, between 400 and 600 gallons a minute, and is typically used to refuel Navy and Marine Corps fighter aircraft.

While the fuel is passing between the two aircraft, they fly on a fixed path with the tanker responsible for the safe navigation of both aircraft. After refueling, the aircraft separate and continue their missions.

Boeing is confident that the KC-7A7 is the best option for the new United States Tanker.

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