Subscribe to our free daily newsletters
. Military Space News .




Subscribe to our free daily newsletters



KC-X Players Set For Opening Day

Illustration only of the proposed KC-X.
by Hil Anderson
UPI Correspondent
Los Angeles (UPI) March 30, 2007
One of the most important pitches of the year in Washington will be made in April, and it won't have anything to do with the hometown Nationals or the opening of another baseball season.

On April 12, two all-star teams of industrial heavyweights will make their formal bids to the U.S. Air Force for the KC-X contract, a project that will replace the entire U.S. air-tanker fleet, keep thousands of aerospace workers employed for years and be worth some $30 billion to the winning team.

"Everything we do, whether it's disaster relief, humanitarian relief, global vigilance, global strike or global mobility -- the thing that makes you 'global' is the jet tanker," Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. T. Michael Moseley told reporters during a mid-March visit to Grand Forks Air Force Base in North Dakota.

Moseley has declared the KC-X to be his top priority as the United States remains committed to a grand strategy of rapid intervention in far-flung trouble spots that depend heavily on air power and airlift. Being able to refuel in flight has been as essential to U.S. power projection as aircraft carriers, overseas bases and Marine expeditionary forces. But time has caught up with the current KC-135 air tankers, and the Air Force is now ready to take the plunge and commit itself to the KC-X project.

"It will be the most comprehensive program in a half a century and it is pretty clear that the investment required to recapitalize this big fleet will ensure that it will be many decades before the next such recapitalization activity occurs," Northrop President and Chief Operating Office Wes Bush told a media briefing in Washington. "And that is why it is so important to get it right."

It is now up to the Boeing team and the rival Northrop Grumman varsity to convince the Air Force that their respective aircraft is the best way to get it right in terms of capabilities and price.

The match-ups largely boil down to a matter of size and money, and the two competitors contend that the facts are in their favor.

Both proposed tankers, Boeing's KC-767 and Northrop's KC-30, are based on existing civilian airliners and are in the final stages of testing with prospects in the overseas market. The KC-30 is larger than the Boeing plane, which is about the same size as the KC-135, a fact not lost on Northrop.

"The KC-30 offers our military much more than a 50-year-old capability replicated at a new aircraft price," Bush declared.

The price tags are, of course, sobering as is often the case with military hardware, and could go as high as $40 billion for the first 179 aircraft. As the immortal Sen. Everett Dirkson once said, "A billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon you're talking about real money."

Estimates floating around Washington peg the KC-767 at equivalent to the $120 million civilian version. The KC-30 is based on the Airbus 330-130, which retails at around $160 million, but holds about 20 percent more fuel than the Boeing model.

Northrop's argument is that although the KC-30 costs more, it can carry about 20-percent more fuel, which gives it the ability to top off more planes per sortie and to get them back in the fight faster. The ability to loiter in the area longer, Northrop contends, is important due to the fact that precision-guided weapons allow planes like the F-22 Raptor and F-35 Joint Strike Fighter to remain on scene longer themselves waiting for a prime target rather than flying in and flying out.

"These fifth-generation fighters demand a fifth-generation tanker," offered Northrop Vice President Paul Meyer, the program manager for the KC-30.

Boeing's counterpoint is that the KC-767 is proven technology that while smaller in capacity, is a better fit with the current Air Force infrastructure. Boeing built the KC-135 and argues that the KC-767 could be effortlessly integrated into existing bases, maintenance facilities and parts stream.

Mark McGraw, who manages the KC-767 program for Boeing, says that philosophy helped convince Japan and Italy to adopt the plane for their air forces.

"Rather than taking a risk on an unproven technology, they can take advantage of years of hard work and flight-test experience and receive the world's most advanced (refueling) boom technology today," McGraw said recently.

With both planes offering relative strengths and weaknesses, Washington can look forward to a great spring match-up that doesn't have anything to do with baseball but will still go down as a classic pitching duel.

Source: United Press International

Email This Article

Related Links
The latest in Military Technology for the 21st century at SpaceWar.com

US Air Force To Develop Revolutionary Engine
Wright-Patterson AFB OH (AFNS) Apr 02, 2007
Air Force Research Laboratory engineers have outlined a five-year timeline for a new, adaptive engine that will enable pilots to switch from high speed combat maneuvers to long-range persistence mode as effortlessly as a bird in flight.







  • US Military Chief Given Unprecedented Access In China
  • Indian Plans Naval Wargames With China, Japan, Russia, US
  • EU Dreams Of Common Army
  • Chairman Observes Chinese Land Combat Exercise

  • Iran Warns UK Over Politicising Crisis As Splits Emerge In Tehran
  • US Carrier Deploys In Gulf As Iran Complains Of Incursions
  • Iran Moots Gulf Defence Alliance
  • No Progress Reported In North Korean Banking Row

  • India Says Air-To-Air Missile Tested And BrahMos To Be Deployed
  • System Monitors Health Of New Composite Military Missiles
  • Pakistan Test Fires Nuclear-Capable Cruise Missile
  • Boeing JDAM Scores Direct Hit In Extended Range Tests

  • EU Foreign Ministers Await NATO-Russia Talks On Missile Shield
  • Russia Denies Readiness To Host Missile Shield
  • Japan Deploys Own Ballistic Missile Defences
  • US Offers To Boost Missile Cooperation with Russia

  • NASA Seeks New Research Proposals
  • Germans Urged To Give Foreign Travel A Rest To Curb Global Warming
  • Raytheon Team Proposes Single International Standard In ADS-B Pursuit
  • NASA Signs Defense Department Agreement

  • Northrop Grumman Gets 287 Million Dollar Global Hawk Unmanned Aerial Systems Contract
  • Boeing Prepares First US Military ScanEagle Crews
  • Israeli Air Force Unveils Long-Range Drone
  • New Technology Expands Air Force Combat Capability

  • An Iraqi Plan To Oust Militias
  • Moqtada al-Sadr's Long Game
  • Flickers Of Hope In Iraq
  • US Wounded Rates Rise In Iraq

  • KC-X Players Set For Opening Day
  • US Air Force To Develop Revolutionary Engine
  • Hybrid Electric Future Heavy Truck Begins UQM Propulsion System Testing
  • Northrop Grumman Successfully Completes F-22 Radar Flight-Test Certification

  • The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2006 - SpaceDaily.AFP and UPI Wire Stories are copyright Agence France-Presse and United Press International. ESA PortalReports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additionalcopyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement,agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by SpaceDaily on any Web page published or hosted by SpaceDaily. Privacy Statement