Boeing, Northrop Grumman submit final KC-X tanker proposal

Boeing and Northrop Grumman say they have submitted their final KC-X Advanced Tanker (AT) proposals for the U.S. Air Force's KC-135 tanker replacement program.

The Boeing Co. (Seattle, Wash.) and Northrop Grumman (Los Angeles, Calif.) say they have submitted their final KC-X Advanced Tanker (AT) proposals for the U.S. Air Force’s KC-135 tanker replacement program. The Boeing tanker, based on the 767, is dubbed KC-767. The Northrop Grumman tanker, being developed with EADS and based on the an Airbus A330, is dubbed the KC-30. The U.S. Air Force is expected to announce the contract award around Jan. 31, 2008.

“We have completed this KC-X process the way we began it - by listening to our Air Force customer,” said Jim Albaugh, president and CEO of Boeing Integrated Defense Systems. “We believe the KC-767 Advanced Tanker will be evaluated as the most capable, technologically advanced and affordable tanker for America.”

Boeing says its tanker will carry three times more cargo and passengers than the KC-135 without sacrificing the operational flexibility delivered by a medium-sized aircraft. Technology advances on the KC-767AT include a sixth-generation, fly-by-wire boom that can offload more than 1,000 gallons of fuel per minute; a third-generation remote vision refueling system; and a state-of-the-art digital flight deck designed for the commercial 767-400ER. In addition to LCD flat panel displays and an integrated flight management system, tanker pilots will have two new systems available - an electronic flight bag and a heads-up guidance system - that will improve situational awareness and mission effectiveness. Boeing also says the KC-767 will save the Air Force an estimated $14.6 billion.

The KC-767 Advanced Tanker will be an advanced derivative of the future 767-200 Long Range Freighter and will be produced at Boeing’s facilities in Everett, Wash., on the existing commercial line where more than 950 767s have been built. Installation of military refueling systems and flight test activities will take place at the company’s finishing center in Wichita, Kan.

Northrop Grumman is leading a team of aerospace suppliers including EADS, General Electric, Sargent Fletcher, Honeywell, Parker, AAR, Knight Aerospace, Telephonics and others in offering the KC-30 tanker to the U.S. Air Force to replace its aging fleet of KC-135 tankers. The KC-30 is based upon the A330 platform provided by EADS.

“I am extremely proud of the quality of the KC-30 team and the progress it continues to make since initial proposal submission in April 2007,” said Ronald D. Sugar, Northrop Grumman chairman and chief executive officer. “Our solution, the KC-30 Tanker, not only offers greater capabilities and versatility than any tanker available today, it offers the lowest entry risk. It also meets all of the Air Force’s key requirements and is superior in every respect to the KC-135R it replaces. The KC-30 is clearly a ‘game changer’ in that it is the only solution to provide the potential breakthrough in future Air Force air mobility capability as the C-17 did in replacing the venerable C-141.”

Northrop Grumman’s KC-30 Tanker aircraft will be assembled in Mobile, Ala. The program would employ more than 200 U.S. companies in 49 states, centered on new facilities in Mobile. The KC-30 carries 45,000 more pounds of fuel than a KC-135. The KC-30 is also designed to refuel Navy and coalition aircraft, and to serve as a multi-role transport aircraft to move passengers, cargo and medical evacuation patients. The KC-30 incorporates defense systems, precision fly-by-wire technology, and the ability to integrate a communications suite and a global support network.