KC-767 Common Widebody Tanker & Transport
In March 2001 The Boeing Company formed a new organization focused on providing air-refueling tanker aircraft to military customers around the world. The 767 Tanker Programs organization is part of the fast-growing Boeing Military Aerospace Support business, which offers comprehensive support products and services, including aircraft modifications.
The Boeing 767 family of aircraft, specifically the -200C/F, 300C/F and -400C/F models, have been proposed by Boeing as a replacement for the KC-135 family of aircraft, and have been vigorously marketed by Boeing. In terms of offload performance, the proposed Boeing KC-767 modestly outperforms the standard KC-135R. Costs for used 767-300ER aircraft vary between $51M and $88M, depending on the age and condition of the aircraft. In terms of speed its Mach 0.8 performance compares to the Mach 0.85 or better performance of the KC-135 aircraft.
The KC-767 will be the world's newest and most advanced tanker. It can offload 20 percent more gas than the KC-135E and unlike the E-model, can itself be refueled in flight. It will also have the capability to refuel Air Force, Navy, Marine and allied aircraft on every mission. At maximum takeoff weight, the KC-767A requires 4,000 feet less runway than the KC-135E. Besides its role as a tanker, the KC-767A will be configured as a convertible freighter and can carry 200 passengers or 19 pallets of cargo.
Equipped with both the proven Boeing-developed boom-and-receptacle and the hose-and-drogue aerial refueling systems, the 767 Tanker/Transport offers maximum operational flexibility along with full European Union and NATO interoperability. The 767 Tanker/Transport is really four aircraft in one. While maintaining its tanker capability, the aircraft's uninterrupted cabin floor can be configured for: Passenger; Freighter; Convertible (passenger or freighter); and Combi (passenger and freighter).
The 767 Tanker/Transport is a low-risk solution that brings to bear the unique capabilities of the world leaders in tanker design and integration: The Boeing Company and Alenia Aerospazio/Aeronavali, which together have almost 2,000 new-production tankers and tanker modifications to their credit. The new aircraft combines the demonstrated performance of the 767 commercial transport with a proven, fully integrated tanker system.
KC-767 and 767 Production
Boeing would assemble the tanker at its facilities in Everett, Wash., using many of the same manufacturing processes that produced almost 1,000 highly reliable and maintainable commercial Boeing 767s. Installation of military refueling systems and flight test activities would take place at the company's finishing center in Wichita, Kan.
In 2003, Boeing stated that if it did not get the tanker deal with the Air Force, it would be hard pressed to win commercial sales to keep the 767 production line open. Development of the 7E7 would become even more important for Boeing to retain market share for 250-seat airplanes. The 767 probably would be superceded by the the 7E7 if the tanker deal did not materialize.
Boeing initially expected to decide by mid-2005 whether to close its 767 production line. Boeing said it could easily restart the line if it won a future competition to supply refueling tankers to the US Air Force, although it declined to give any details on the costs involved in such a move. In February 2006 Boeing said that it planned to terminate the production of the 767 widebody aircraft model, without a contract for air-refuelling tankers, despite recent orders for the 767.
But a subsequent surge of orders in late 2006 for the 767 would keep assembly lines going well past 2010. On 05 February 2007 United Parcel Service announced plans to buy 27 freight versions of the Boeing 767-300ER airliner, the biggest order in years for the twin-engine jet. The 27 aircraft would be delivered between 2009 and 2012. On 02 March 2007 UPS, the last remaining customer for the cargo version of the Airbus A380 superjumbo, said that it was walking away from its order for 10 planes, citing concerns that Airbus would not be able to meet a revised delivery schedule.
KC-767 Tanker/Transport Design Features
Boeing invented boom technology in the 20th century. The advanced boom -- an evolutionary design that has been perfected over the past 50 years -- is compatible with all U.S. Air Force receiver aircraft and offers the highest reliability and fuel-transfer rates available. Now, operators will enjoy even faster, more accurate boom control responses with the advanced fly-by-wire system, as well as a reduced workload, with improved safety thanks to the Automatic Load Alleviation System, which maintains boom alignment to the receiver aircraft. Additionally, the Independent Disconnect System virtually eliminates damage resulting from forced disconnects. This new boom is not only more reliable than the current one in use, but it can also be maintained in fewer hours, thereby keeping aircraft in the air and not on the ground.
The new Wing Aerial Refueling Pod (WARP) design is a significant improvement over existing refueling equipment. New pods increase reliability due to a simplified system with built-in test capabilities. An innovative drogue exit location and an increased hose response rate improve hose stability. Most important, these pods enhance flight safety and reduce receiver aircraft mishaps. The centerline hose drum unit offers improved hose stability through an increased response rate, enhanced built-in test capabilities, and reduced system complexity for better reliability. A fuel transfer rate of 600 gallons per minute minimizes refueling time.
The boom operator station is a state-of-the-art system that was developed with the boom operator in mind, using the same rigorous standards that have been a hallmark of Boeing's flight decks. This user-friendly station is located just aft of the flight deck and features a third-generation Remote Vision System (RVS) with on-screen symbology. It offers full control of the air refueling operation in a comfortable, fully redundant, accessible setting. The Remote Vision System provides a 185-degree field of view, nearly four times that of the existing tanker, for better visibility, more accurate information and greater control. Additionally, the advanced digital video processing and high-definition stereoscopic display reduce glints, glares and shadows and improve air refueling operations. RVS also includes features that enhance low-light refueling missions such as dawn, dusk and night.
Palletized seating and quick load-and-lock provisions in the main deck cargo handling system ensure rapid conversion between cargo and passenger configurations. With this efficient use of space, crews can carry anything from munitions to light trucks, and use standard 463L military pallets and existing material handling equipment. Rapid conversion can also transform the tankers into aeromedical evacuation aircraft using patient support pallets currently in the U.S. Air Force inventory.
The tanker will be equipped with Night Vision Imaging Systems (NVIS) featuring compatible exterior, interior and flight deck illumination. Pilots can quickly convert from standard lighting to NVIS for night covert missions. NVIS lighting allows the receiver to fly formation and conduct air refueling during training or combat operations while wearing night vision goggles.
|Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list|