Saturday, June 19, 2021

New tanker competition looms

Boeing and Airbus end up in another tanker war as early as next year to provide aerial refueling aircraft to the U.S. Air Force. The Air Force on Tuesday released a sources sought notice for a non developmental tanker aircraft known as KC-Y that would bridge the gap between Boeing KC-46 and the next-generation KC-Z tanker. The Air Force is looking for companies that could deliver as many as 15 commercial derivative tankers a year, with the new bridge tanker operational in 2029, the year the last KC-46 is due to be delivered. The plan is to buy 140 to 160 KC-Ys to continue the replacement of the KC-135 fleet. The competition could start as early as 2022, when the service issues a final request for proposals. The Air Force provided few details on how KC-Y would differ from KC-46, only saying that it is still finalizing its requirements. (Sources: DefenseNews, 06/17/21, aldotcom, 06/18/21) Airbus, then known as EADS, and Boeing competed for the right to build the current KC-135 replacement. Airbus won initially and the plan was to build them in Mobile, Ala., which at that time had no aircraft manufacturing plant. But following a Boeing protest the contract was awarded to Boeing in 2011. Since then, Airbus has built two assembly lines in Mobile, one for the A320 and one for the A220. The new battle is likely to pit a modified KC-46 with the Airbus A330 multi-role tanker transport.