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Revelation
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Short On Cash For KC-46, U.S. Air Force Eyes Souped-Up KC-135

Sat Mar 11, 2017 2:13 pm

A fair-use quote from AvWeek (free registration required);

Strapped for cash to buy Boeing’s new KC-46 tanker in sufficient numbers to fully replace the legacy fleet, the U.S. Air Force is looking instead to outfit its 60-year-old KC-135 Stratotanker with state-of-the-art survivability upgrades so it can fly for another 40 years.

The service is buying 179 next-generation KC-46s as the first step in an ambitious effort to recapitalize its tanker fleet. But even after Boeing’s Pegasus is fully fielded in fiscal 2028, the remaining 300 KC-135s will be the backbone of the force until the future KC-Y or KC-Z comes online in the 2030-40 timeframe.

In fact, the joint force will rely so heavily on the Stratotanker in the coming decades that the aircraft could be 100 years old before it is sent to the boneyard, according to Gen. Carlton Everhart, chief of Air Mobility Command (AMC).


It goes on to point out a big issue is the way the Congress is running the country on continuing resolutions and how it makes it impossible to move money from procurement to operations/maintenance and vice versa.

It sickens me the way the DoD speaks out of both sides of its mouth.

At least it was able to make Boeing bleed on the KC-46 contract, but I'm sure Boeing will find a way to make up their losses and then some.
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Ozair
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Re: Short On Cash For KC-46, U.S. Air Force Eyes Souped-Up KC-135

Sat Mar 11, 2017 10:48 pm

Revelation wrote:
A fair-use quote from AvWeek (free registration required);

Strapped for cash to buy Boeing’s new KC-46 tanker in sufficient numbers to fully replace the legacy fleet, the U.S. Air Force is looking instead to outfit its 60-year-old KC-135 Stratotanker with state-of-the-art survivability upgrades so it can fly for another 40 years.



Any tanker is essentially a flying target so I see no way the USAF can make the KC-135 more survivable or any more survivable than a KC-46. Unless by survivability the author means updated electronics so spares are actually available 20 years from now?
 
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Stitch
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Re: Short On Cash For KC-46, U.S. Air Force Eyes Souped-Up KC-135

Sun Mar 12, 2017 2:35 am

Revelation wrote:
At least it was able to make Boeing bleed on the KC-46 contract, but I'm sure Boeing will find a way to make up their losses and then some.


Maybe by soaking them for the KC-135 upgrades. :devil:
 
CX747
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Re: Short On Cash For KC-46, U.S. Air Force Eyes Souped-Up KC-135

Sun Mar 12, 2017 4:17 am

Some of the first KC-46s are going to be based at McGuire and Travis. Both of those are large KC-10 bases with no AD KC-135s in sight. I'm not quite sure how that is "replacing" the 135 fleet. Potential end to the KC-10 fleet?!?!

This could be useful posturing to purchase more -46s as there will be the argument that pumping more $$$ into the KC-135 fleet is a waste. I just can't see retreading the 135s again. At some point someone has to say ENOUGH. The frames are old, rusty and worn out after 25+ years of massive use over the Middle East. This isn't the height of the Cold War where they sat on ramps awaiting the call.

Either way, Boeing supports the KC-135, KC-10 and builds the KC-46. With the Trump administration in charge I don't foresee years of bleak military budgets ahead. If I was in charge of the AF, I'd have the -46s coming as fast as possible over the next 8 years.
"History does not long entrust the care of freedom to the weak or timid." D. Eisenhower
 
ThePointblank
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Re: Short On Cash For KC-46, U.S. Air Force Eyes Souped-Up KC-135

Sun Mar 12, 2017 8:26 am

Revelation wrote:

It goes on to point out a big issue is the way the Congress is running the country on continuing resolutions and how it makes it impossible to move money from procurement to operations/maintenance and vice versa.

It sickens me the way the DoD speaks out of both sides of its mouth.

Actually, I would argue that the DoD is speaking with two real issues at hand; recapitalization and maintaining the existing fleet until it can be recapitalized. The USAF needs new aircraft very soon because the existing ones are up against their service lives and are about to go obsolete. However, in order to be able to fight today, they need the existing fleet to be combat capable and ready, thus investments need to be made to keep the existing fleet operational and relevant for the time being.

The back story is that in government budgetary parlance, there is a concept called 'colour of money'. What this concept means is that Congress through passing of its budgets and appropriation bills, specifies how the money should be used for in the DoD budget. Specifically, it means that a certain amount of money is allocated to a specific financial account, be it Procurement, Research and Development (R&D), Operations and Maintenance (O&M) and others.

The issue is that money from one account CANNOT be used for another purpose; for example, if I have a surplus at the end of fiscal year in Procurement, and I am short money for O&M, I cannot take the surplus funds from Procurement and put it into O&M. It's illegal and in violation of the Misappropriation Act if one does so without Congressional approval.

So, basically, a KC-135 upgrade project would draw its funds from O&M (with a bit of money going into R&D), while buying new KC-46's would fall under Procurement.

The USAF has in the past tried to get wise on this; witness the KC-767 lease proposal. Basically, the original KC-767 lease was budgeted under O&M because as it was a lease, and because the USAF didn't own the aircraft, it wasn't technically a procurement, and thus USAF could use O&M funds to pay for the lease. Furthermore, as O&M funds aren't subject to the same level of Congressional oversight as Procurement funds, the USAF thought they could get this approved very quickly and quietly. That all went to hell as soon as it was discovered that corruption was involved in securing the contract for that...
 
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moo
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Re: Short On Cash For KC-46, U.S. Air Force Eyes Souped-Up KC-135

Sun Mar 12, 2017 10:10 am

Stitch wrote:
Revelation wrote:
At least it was able to make Boeing bleed on the KC-46 contract, but I'm sure Boeing will find a way to make up their losses and then some.


Maybe by soaking them for the KC-135 upgrades. :devil:


*If* Boeing gets that contract...
 
CX747
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Re: Short On Cash For KC-46, U.S. Air Force Eyes Souped-Up KC-135

Mon Mar 13, 2017 2:38 am

I just see this a posturing to make sure the KC-46 is solidified.
"History does not long entrust the care of freedom to the weak or timid." D. Eisenhower
 
Ozair
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Re: Short On Cash For KC-46, U.S. Air Force Eyes Souped-Up KC-135

Mon Mar 13, 2017 3:05 am

CX747 wrote:
I just see this a posturing to make sure the KC-46 is solidified.

Agree, it provides the rationale to transition KC-46 production straight into the KC-Y contract. No need for a competition given there is an already in production tanker with 170+ frames in the fleet. KC-Y was always about KC-135 replacement anyway.
 
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Revelation
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Re: Short On Cash For KC-46, U.S. Air Force Eyes Souped-Up KC-135

Mon Mar 13, 2017 10:36 am

Ozair wrote:
CX747 wrote:
I just see this a posturing to make sure the KC-46 is solidified.

Agree, it provides the rationale to transition KC-46 production straight into the KC-Y contract. No need for a competition given there is an already in production tanker with 170+ frames in the fleet. KC-Y was always about KC-135 replacement anyway.


Yet the article makes the interesting point that even if they wanted to replace the KC135 fleet in the near term they could not do it because the KC46 production rate is pretty low, so some investment in the KC135 is inevitable.

Personally I think KC46 happened 20 years too soon. The main thing killing off the KC135s is metal fatigue. It would have been wiser to replace the KC135s with CFRP based airplanes. We see now that KC135 actually is viable for another 40 years despite the crap that was said during the tanker debates.
Inspiration, move me brightly! Light the song with sense and color.
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Faced with mysteries dark and vast, statements just seem vain at last.
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tjh8402
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Re: Short On Cash For KC-46, U.S. Air Force Eyes Souped-Up KC-135

Mon Mar 13, 2017 9:39 pm

Perhaps the AF has decided that rival nations increasingly viewing taking out tankers as a tactical aim of their forces means that they need to rethink how to handle refueling needs. There has been a lot of discussions about whether a stealth tanker is needed to help the F-35, F-22, and B-21 be able to get the fuel they need for missions in contested airspace without risking the extremely vulnerable conventional tankers they currently depend on. There have been proposals for stealth tankers, as well as rumors of possibly modifying the B-21 for buddy tanking.
 
LightningZ71
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Re: Short On Cash For KC-46, U.S. Air Force Eyes Souped-Up KC-135

Tue Mar 14, 2017 7:31 pm

The Navy is looking VERY strongly at using a UAV for tanker duty. There is already development on stealthy UAVS for carrier duty with several demonstrators having been used on carriers already. Given that the US uses hose and drogue, a stealth UAV tanker could orbit in a clean configuration for long periods of time, deploy the drogue only when needed, and auto return to the carrier when it needs to refill. This is not an extremely difficult skillset to master.

The USAF has a much bigger problem here as boom is a more difficult concept. It will take an AI flying the boom to work with a manned fighter or other craft to make a successful link. It isn't insurmountable, but it is a more difficult task. The other problem for the USAF is that making a fully stowable boom is also more complicated than a hose and basket, and takes up a lot of volume, requiring a larger tanker for the needed capacity. In addition, since the boom must be rigid, and thicker, it will have a larger unstowed radar return than an unwound refueling hose and plastic basket. All of this means that their tankers will have to sit farther from the battlespace, even if generally stealthy, than the navy tankers. This may not be as big of a deal as the navy tankers will have problems with holding significant fuel volume to begin with. Currently, an F-18 on buddy duty can fuel up two (or more if total fuel offload is limited) other f-18s on a strike mission. A tanker based on any of the demonstrators used thus far would struggle to fuel even one. Anythong that's based on a flying wing with a thin profile will be rather volume limited to even fit properly on a carrier. If you bloat the fuselage, you loose a lot of inherent form stealth and costs skyrocket as you have to make that up with material stealth by using more exotic coatings, etc.

This is one reason that the airforce has put so much development into the B2 and B21. They are very long range stealth bombers and don't need to refuel anywhere near to the enemy territory. It's also why they are developing stealthy ALCMS for stand off strikes.

I think that the Navy will have stealth tankers first as they need them more. The air force is a long way away from them.
 
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KarelXWB
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Re: Short On Cash For KC-46, U.S. Air Force Eyes Souped-Up KC-135

Tue Mar 21, 2017 12:35 pm

Revelation wrote:
Personally I think KC46 happened 20 years too soon.


Boeing had no other choice. Without the KC-46 contract, the 767 production line would have been dead by now.
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Revelation
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Re: Short On Cash For KC-46, U.S. Air Force Eyes Souped-Up KC-135

Tue Mar 21, 2017 4:45 pm

KarelXWB wrote:
Revelation wrote:
Personally I think KC46 happened 20 years too soon.


Boeing had no other choice. Without the KC-46 contract, the 767 production line would have been dead by now.


Yes, my point is the USAF should be operating a tanker that's mostly plastic/carbon not metal, since the thing that will kill off the KC-135s is metal fatigue.
Inspiration, move me brightly! Light the song with sense and color.
Hold away despair, more than this I will not ask.
Faced with mysteries dark and vast, statements just seem vain at last.
Some rise, some fall, some climb, to get to Terrapin!
 
Ozair
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Re: Short On Cash For KC-46, U.S. Air Force Eyes Souped-Up KC-135

Tue Mar 21, 2017 9:22 pm

Revelation wrote:

Yes, my point is the USAF should be operating a tanker that's mostly plastic/carbon not metal, since the thing that will kill off the KC-135s is metal fatigue.

When I look at what is potentially available for a future tanker platform I don't see metal fatigue as an issue. Far more interesting is the promise of unmanned operations, BWB airframes for longer endurance and potentially arming a tanker with self defence DEW.

In that light, perhaps KC-46 arrived at the right time. The USAF can continue acquiring KC-46 for as long as they need to until some/all of the above features become available. At that point the USAF can acquire tactical tankers better equipped for FEBA operations and leave the KC-46 to rear area ops.
 
LightningZ71
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Re: Short On Cash For KC-46, U.S. Air Force Eyes Souped-Up KC-135

Wed Mar 22, 2017 3:44 am

There will ALWAYS be a need to drag shorter ranged fighters and transports back and forth across the oceans during peace time. Having a newer, more economical tanker to do that can only help in the long run.
 
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Revelation
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Re: Short On Cash For KC-46, U.S. Air Force Eyes Souped-Up KC-135

Wed Mar 22, 2017 11:20 am

Ozair wrote:
Revelation wrote:
Yes, my point is the USAF should be operating a tanker that's mostly plastic/carbon not metal, since the thing that will kill off the KC-135s is metal fatigue.

When I look at what is potentially available for a future tanker platform I don't see metal fatigue as an issue. Far more interesting is the promise of unmanned operations, BWB airframes for longer endurance and potentially arming a tanker with self defence DEW.

In that light, perhaps KC-46 arrived at the right time. The USAF can continue acquiring KC-46 for as long as they need to until some/all of the above features become available. At that point the USAF can acquire tactical tankers better equipped for FEBA operations and leave the KC-46 to rear area ops.

The post above was interesting, it says as you increase the size of the tanker to get a useful size you lose your stealthy characteristics, so that is no panacea.

Unmanned operation is a big win but will be a very costly path for DoD to follow. Oh yeah, I forgot, they have inifinite money to spend. Thanks, Donald!

My opinion comes from reading that the KC-135's cause of death will be metal fatigue, and is one of the costliest items to deal with at depot service time. We should have kept the KC135s alive another 20 years (which even the DOD admits is feasible) till the 787 era tech is cheap and used that to replace the KC135s.
Inspiration, move me brightly! Light the song with sense and color.
Hold away despair, more than this I will not ask.
Faced with mysteries dark and vast, statements just seem vain at last.
Some rise, some fall, some climb, to get to Terrapin!
 
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flyingclrs727
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Re: Short On Cash For KC-46, U.S. Air Force Eyes Souped-Up KC-135

Sun Mar 26, 2017 4:56 am

Revelation wrote:
Ozair wrote:
Revelation wrote:
Yes, my point is the USAF should be operating a tanker that's mostly plastic/carbon not metal, since the thing that will kill off the KC-135s is metal fatigue.

When I look at what is potentially available for a future tanker platform I don't see metal fatigue as an issue. Far more interesting is the promise of unmanned operations, BWB airframes for longer endurance and potentially arming a tanker with self defence DEW.

In that light, perhaps KC-46 arrived at the right time. The USAF can continue acquiring KC-46 for as long as they need to until some/all of the above features become available. At that point the USAF can acquire tactical tankers better equipped for FEBA operations and leave the KC-46 to rear area ops.

The post above was interesting, it says as you increase the size of the tanker to get a useful size you lose your stealthy characteristics, so that is no panacea.

Unmanned operation is a big win but will be a very costly path for DoD to follow. Oh yeah, I forgot, they have inifinite money to spend. Thanks, Donald!

My opinion comes from reading that the KC-135's cause of death will be metal fatigue, and is one of the costliest items to deal with at depot service time. We should have kept the KC135s alive another 20 years (which even the DOD admits is feasible) till the 787 era tech is cheap and used that to replace the KC135s.


I read articles a decade ago that proposed upgrading all KC-135E's in Air National Guard units to KC-135R, but instead of building new CFM engines for them, just take the engines off KC-135R's entering depot maintenance and putting them on other KC-135R's as they exit the depot. That way all the remaining KC-135's would use CFM engines.
 
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Aesma
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Re: Short On Cash For KC-46, U.S. Air Force Eyes Souped-Up KC-135

Wed Mar 29, 2017 7:34 am

LightningZ71 wrote:
There will ALWAYS be a need to drag shorter ranged fighters and transports back and forth across the oceans during peace time. Having a newer, more economical tanker to do that can only help in the long run.


Actually I'd say it's a need for war time only. Of course you need to be ready during peace times, but the US is continuously involved in one war or another, creating them if need be.

The US has how many times more tanker aircraft than all other nations on the planet combined ?

China is not waging war anywhere, which doesn't mean it's a peaceful country, but their Air Force is clearly geared towards defending the country. They have virtually no tanker.
New Technology is the name we give to stuff that doesn't work yet. Douglas Adams
 
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Aesma
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Re: Short On Cash For KC-46, U.S. Air Force Eyes Souped-Up KC-135

Wed Mar 29, 2017 7:42 am

As for the technological aspect of things, some kind of B2 style tanker (manned or unmanned) would seem the most logical. Of course made much cheaper !

All current tankers aren't dedicated platforms and as a result are inefficient, carrying a fuselage full of air for nothing. If you only look at costs that's fine, but if you want a tanker than can really be used in the battlefield, against a capable enemy, it's not what you want. A plastic, stealth flying wing is the way to go.
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