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USAF Asks to Shrink Tanker Fleet.

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USAF Asks to Shrink Tanker Fleet.

Old 2nd Jun 2022, 05:00
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USAF Asks to Shrink Tanker Fleet.

Lots to dig out of this.

First, strategic. the DoD used have to be ready to fight two wars at once (as in WWII), then that shrunk to a war plus a “major contingency operation”. It now seems the DoD is questioning if that is still possible. If not, it opens the door for still more cuts as they focus just on China - with implications for Europe and NATO.

Second, commercial, first mention of cancelling the KC-Y competition and just ordering more KC-46. That might not get through Congress.

Third, technological, another indication in the interest ion a combat capable tanker. Though that might end up as a system with a mother tanker with a fleet of MQ-25 type drones shuttling fuel forward.

https://www.defensenews.com/air/2022...-in-its-fleet/

US Air Force wants to lower the number of tankers required in its fleet

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Air Force’s top civilian said Wednesday the service is eyeing a 5% cut in the minimum number of aerial refueling tankers it is required to keep in its fleet.…During an event at the Heritage Foundation think tank, Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall said the service plans to ask Congress for permission to cut its tanker fleet requirement from a minimum of 479 refueling aircraft to 455.

Congress set that 479 requirement when it passed the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act, which was based on a TRANSCOM study from 2018 that found that number to be the minimum fleet size required if war broke out. At the end of 2021, the Air Force had about 490 tankers in its fleet.

Kendall said a tanker capacity of at least 455 would be “adequate” to respond to a threat from China, which the military considers the United States’ current pacing challenge, as well as other missions. But as the Air Force closely considers its priorities in a tough fiscal environment, the service “can’t do everything all the time,” he explained. And he warned the service’s ability to respond to multiple major crises at once may be tested.

“Given the threats that we face, the idea that we can do a major war and a major contingency simultaneously is a stretch,” Kendall said.…

Kendall also said the Air Force is growing more concerned that tankers may faced an increased threat of being shot down in combat. How to design a more combat-survivable tanker is one of the key questions the Air Force is asking as it starts to envision what its future KC-Z tanker should look like.

But, Kendall said, that’s still an open question and the Air Force hasn’t gotten very far on finding an answer…..

He also reiterated that the Air Force has become “much less confident” that it will hold a competition for the KC-Y bridge tanker, which will pave the way for the service’s next-generation KC-Z. If the service doesn’t hold a KC-Y competition, it would buy more KC-46 Pegasus aircraft from Boeing while retiring older KC-10 and KC-135 tankers.…

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Old 2nd Jun 2022, 14:46
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I may pop a blood vessel here (based on Joint/Combined Ops days where tanking was a crucial truss in the operational bridge) but this (to me) smacks of the same sort of myopic USAF view that results in the never ending assault on the A-10.
Just like the Title X stuff the US Army has to shoulder as a part of its joint service burden, tanking (global capability) is a burden the Air Force must shoulder.
It comes with the badge, Zoomies.
Tanking is a core capability that you'd expect to increase, not decrease, in importance in the next decade or so unless the geopolitical situation changes drastically.
(Looking mid term here). (Yeah, I understand the "it's only a 5% decrease" line ...)
This is just one old fart's opinion: I'd like to see the House Armed Services Committee kick this one back and say "No, you do not get to not do your job."
“Given the threats that we face, the idea that we can do a major war and a major contingency simultaneously is a stretch,” Kendall said.…
Kendall also said the Air Force is growing more concerned that tankers may faced an increased threat of being shot down in combat.
Right, General, then you need to make more of them, as you'll expect to lose more.

Last edited by Lonewolf_50; 2nd Jun 2022 at 15:08.
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Old 2nd Jun 2022, 18:06
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I actually think ordering more KC-46s and postponing KC-Y is a high likelihood. As much of a cluster as the KC-46 development was, those costs are pretty much behind it. Compared to what a KC-Y development would cost (particularly if they want to make it stealthy), more KC-46s would be an absolute bargain.
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Old 2nd Jun 2022, 18:30
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Buy more stuff that works?
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Old 2nd Jun 2022, 18:52
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Originally Posted by MPN11 View Post
Buy more stuff that works?
Heresy by thought, heresy by word ...
~Cardinal Fang~
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Old 3rd Jun 2022, 02:29
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Originally Posted by MPN11 View Post
Buy more stuff that works?
So that'd be a big buy of A330 MRTTs, then, seeing as how the KC-46 is still being produced with several outstanding Class 1 defects.
That's design defects that aren't scheduled to be fixed in new production for a couple of years, goodness knows how long to retrofit.

The only available AAR tanker that Just Works is the A330 MRTT
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Old 3rd Jun 2022, 03:59
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Kiwi grey, if they say that they are buying less domestic stuff (per the OP) what makes you think they'd be in the least bit interested in anything else?
I am sure that you enjoy riding your hobby horse.
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Old 3rd Jun 2022, 12:00
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Originally Posted by Lonewolf_50 View Post
Kiwi grey, if they say that they are buying less domestic stuff (per the OP) what makes you think they'd be in the least bit interested in anything else?
I am sure that you enjoy riding your hobby horse.
A330 tankers are being used by most of the US distant coalition partners in the Middle East, Europe, Asia Pacific, as well as being selected by Canada., it has already been cleared for almost every type of aircraft in the US inventory as well as overseas partners. If they used the A330-800 base frame that would have a lower hourly block fuel burn than the KC-46.

The last paragraph says to me Boeing has paid the lobbyist a lot of money to stop a RFP because they know they could not win a competition for a bridging tanker on its merits.
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Old 3rd Jun 2022, 13:09
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Cancelling KC-Y seems reasonable...as the KC46 is late anyway, why not accept that (most) of the pain is now behind you, and stick with the product, instead of sinking more $ into another brand new design. What was the 'Y' supposed to bring anyway? Assuming 'Z' is still coming later, and 'Y' was notionally to replace the KC10 (which the 46 is capable of doing), removing a programme and all the associated effort seems sensible. 'Z' is the one that will matter, if there really is to be a big design evolution. So focus on getting it right, and load up on 46s in the meantime (maybe add new engines at some stage, for additional reach).

As to reducing the overall fleet...that does seem less reasonable!
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Old 3rd Jun 2022, 14:05
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The US should finally buy the KC-330 while the Europeans could take more Poseidons and Wedgetails. Would make sense for everybody. NATO will need some AWACS replacement as well one day.
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Old 3rd Jun 2022, 15:17
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Originally Posted by Less Hair View Post
The US should finally buy the KC-330 while the Europeans could take more Poseidons and Wedgetails. Would make sense for everybody. NATO will need some AWACS replacement as well one day.
The first question to answer, if one is serious about this proposal, is "In which congressional district/districts, would these tankers be built?"
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Old 3rd Jun 2022, 15:25
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Last time it was Mobile Alabama
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Old 3rd Jun 2022, 15:58
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The Alabama plant already has an A220 assembly line and an 320 assembly line. They are adding another A320NEO line and have stated that, if the MRTT is selected by the USAF they’ll add a fourth A330:assembly line…

With A320 production alone ramping up to 75 aircraft a month from the present 50 vs Boeing 737 stuck at 35 and the 777X and 787 in limbo, if even 50% of the extra aircraft are assembled in Mobile, then production there could soon exceed that of Seattle.

https://www.madeinalabama.com/2022/0...ckheed-martin/

https://alabamanewscenter.com/2022/0...ore-a320-jets/


https://airwaysmag.com/airbus-ramping-up-alabama/
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Old 8th Jun 2022, 05:30
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https://www.defensenews.com/air/2022...rization-bill/

Air Force tanker fleet cut on the table in proposed authorization bill

WASHINGTON — The Air Force would be allowed to cut aerial refueling tankers in the initial draft ofthe National Defense Authorization Act that a House Armed Services subcommittee will consider this week — though not as many as the service had hoped.

In a briefing with reporters Monday, committee aides for the HASC seapower and projection forces subcommittee said the proposed 2023 NDAA would lower the minimum number of tankers the Air Force is required to have in its fleet, from the current level of 479 to 466. The subcommittee is scheduled to mark up its section of the bill Wednesday.

A U.S. Transportation Command study in 2018 found that if war were to break out, the military would need at least 479 tankers in its fleet. Congress wrote that number into law when it passed 2019′s NDAA.….

Last week, Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall said at a Heritage Foundation event the service would ask Congress to lower its tanker requirement to 455, which he said would be “adequate” to respond to a threat from China as well as other missions. The proposed tanker number in the House NDAA would essentially split the difference.…

But if this provision makes it into the final version of the NDAA, it would open the door to further tanker cuts.…
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Old 8th Jun 2022, 15:00
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Salute!

To be honest, the Alabama tanker deal was harpooned by a certain contingent from state of Washington. TDRACER might be able to add to that opinion.

Secondly, the tactical air from here on will not be as dependent upon tankers as we saw in 'nam, Balkans, 'raqi I, 'raqi II and so forth. Just the retirement of the Double Ugly was a big factor when planning the war games, and I saw it at Red Flag and Green Flag in the 80's as the Vipers replaced the Phantoms. Only time I ever refueled was one time coming all the way from Hill in northern Utah and then back. We plugged going in to top off and came back without hitting the tanker. In 'nam, a Double Ugly would tank OTW from Korat to Saigon area ( figure 300 n.m. +/-), then tank coming back. Whereas we lowly SLUF's carried same load and no tanking required.

So the increasing fleet of F-35's is gonna reduce the tactical air tanker requirement except for the Super Bugs, old Eagles, old Vipers and the heavies that are based way far from the action. Besides, most of the Bugs will use buddy refueling from their carrier planes, including the new drone tankers. The USMC F-35's can use same tankers that our special ops folks use, and maybe they already have some of their own in their mobility packages.

Nevertheless, I do not like to see cutting down the fleet of any type unless you can maintain the same or better capabilites, versatility and cost.

Gums opines...
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Old 8th Jun 2022, 16:58
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This is very short sighted

I understand there are trade offs to be made. Our ability to project real and deterrent force is enabled by aerial refueling. Our ability to help others quickly, to deploy significant power and even to strike globally without dependence on fickle allies depends on it. And when you really need it, the flexibility of supporting multiple “customers” relies on a robust fleet of tankers.
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Old 8th Jun 2022, 19:10
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I realize that cross referencing between fixed wing and rotary wing is dangerous, but this "automate this human task" thing with the boom seems to have backfired as badly as the [email protected]$!%^! overengineered automatic blade fold system on the SH-60B (manual folding on the SH-2F was faster and more reliable in my experience). That little mess caused no end of frustration, delay, and problems that the manual system never did.
Yes, it's a different scale of problem as it did not delay the IOC, but in practice
I hope that they finally unfuxxored that little annoyance after I left the fleet.
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Old 8th Jun 2022, 19:38
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How much fuel is left? Maybe upgrade to battery fast charger tech?
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Old 8th Jun 2022, 19:48
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Salute!

I want my 2,000 pound battery that gives me 2,000 miles range and can be re-charged in ten minutes from the "tanker" that uses the awesome zillion amp charger and has enuf amps to charge another half dozen folks as the strike force forms up.

I assume UXB has the /sarc button turned off.

Gums sends...
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Old 9th Jun 2022, 03:57
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Gums, et. al., the Boeing vs. Airbus tanker deal was beat to death (repeatedly) in another thread, and I really don't care to repeat all those arguments. But I'll do a quick summary:
Boeing won round one with a 767 based tanker lease deal. This got thrown out when some less than ethical behavior was uncovered between the US government and Boeing. People went to jail.
Round two went to Airbus for an A330 based tanker. This was thrown out when Boeing demonstrated that the USAF hadn't followed the published requirements, giving Airbus "extra credit" when such credit wasn't mentioned in the RFP.
Round three went to Boeing when the USAF specified that no extra credit would be granted, and Boeing underbid and won by lowballing the costs. When I submitted my estimated work statement, I was told it was way to high - by a factor of 2 - even though I'd done a 'assume the best' estimate - I think my work statement was unilaterally cut by half by management although I don't know that for a fact. When my work statement was later audited, it was determined that I'd underestimated by about half - meaning that what was actually submitted may have been low by a factor of 4...

BTW, before everyone rags on about how great the KC-330 is, it's worth repeating that the KC-330 didn't meet the USAF minimum requirements - didn't even come close (same reason Boeing didn't simply pitch the KC-767 - which had been successfully produced and delivered). Yes, there was some gold plating in the requirements, plus a whole lot of stuff that has zero applicability to the aerial refueling mission. While I can't repeat details, I strongly suspect the aircraft was being provisioned for tasks completely unrelated to the aerial refueling (or even cargo transport) missions (as was done with the KC-135). Again, beat to death - repeatedly - in the other thread.
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