In-flight aerial refueling of American and coalition aircraft is a fundamental U.S. Air Force mission. However, the service's primary refueling aircraft that support this mission are nearing the end of their operational life and would soon need to be replaced.
The KC-30 advanced tanker is the world's most modern and capable in-flight refueling system that meets or exceeds tanker capabilities as outlined by U.S. Air Force and Joint Service doctrines. The KC-30 also offers mission flexibility for cargo, passengers and aeromedical evacuation while providing a very cost-effective solution for the Department of Defense and American taxpayers.
Equipped with a centerline flying boom - along with two underwing hose & drogue pods and a fuselage hose and drogue refueling unit - the KC-30 can refuel multiple aircraft simultaneously, and is interoperable with U.S. Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps and allied aircraft on the same mission without downtime for reconfiguration.
The KC-30 is derived from the A330 widebody twin-engine passenger jet, which has earned its reputation as the commercial airliner of choice for leading carriers worldwide. Characteristics that make the A330 a bestseller in its category also provide exceptional operational capabilities and superior performance for the KC-30 as a new-generation military tanker. These include:
- a large fuel capacity,
- an advanced digital cockpit with fly-by-wire controls for excellent handling qualities and low crew workload,
- a fuselage cross-section maximized for both passenger and cargo payloads;
- underfloor holds that are sized to accommodate NATO pallets,
- bulk cargo and side-by-side LD-3 containers.
As a derivative of a modern commercial jetliner early in its operational prime, the KC-30's advantages also include low life cycle costs, continued manufacturer upgrades and improvements, and a guaranteed supply of spare parts for decades to come.
To ensure the U.S. Air Force maintains the aerial refueling capability necessary to support America's global multi-service warfighting needs, all possible options should be considered for modernizing its tanker fleet.
In recent international competitions, the KC-30 family of advanced tankers has been recognized as an optimal solution for meeting next-generation military tanker requirements. The U.K. government has selected the AirTanker industry grouping and its A330 MRTT (Multi-Role Tanker Transport) as the preferred bidder for its Future Strategic Tanker Aircraft requirement. The Royal Australian Air Force signed a contract in December 2004 to acquire five A330 MRTTs. Deliveries of the Australian aircraft are scheduled to begin in 2008, with the A330 MRTT entering operational service in 2009 following operational test and evaluation by the RAAF.
In America, an open and competitive selection process for the next generation U.S. Air Force tanker would produce the optimal aircraft system at a price point that creates best value for the Department of Defense, the services, coalition forces and the American taxpayer. The KC-30 advanced tanker has consistently demonstrated its success as a world class refueling platform in competitive selection processes.
EADS North America is a team mate and principal contractor of the Northrop Grumman KC-30 industrial team. The team is committed to delivering an American military aircraft program with tanker assembly taking in place in the United States and with more than 50 percent of the aircraft, subsystems and support being provided by American partners and suppliers. The KC-30 program would result in the insourcing of U.S aerospace jobs, offsetting to the greatest extent possible the overseas outsourcing of American manufacturing jobs.
Mobile, Alabama's Brookley Industrial Complex was selected as the site for the KC-30 advanced tanker U.S. production facility, providing a strategically-located complex on the Gulf of Mexico with existing runways, a deepwater port and a skilled aerospace workforce. An Airbus Engineering Center would be co-located with the future production facility and is scheduled to begin operations in 2006.
The choice was made in June 2005 after a five-month nationwide search, in which more than 70 sites from 32 states originally responded to a Request for Information (RFI).
Development of the KC-30 industrial facility would begin at a new Airbus Engineering Center in the United States, with operations starting in early 2006 and its employment growing to approximately 150 persons. This facility is to support continuing engineering work on commercial Airbus models and military derivative aircraft - including the A330, A340 and A350 jetliners, as well as the KC-30 tanker.
Production would be initiated at the Mobile facility upon receipt of an order from the U.S. Air Force for the KC-30 aerial refueling tanker. Activities would include aircraft final assembly, militarization and modification. Depending on the size and pace of the Air Force order, the total facility investment could reach $600 million, and direct employment levels could be as high as 1,000 workers - including a mix of structure mechanics, electronic and systems specialists, engineers, quality assurance personnel and management. The KC-30 Tanker aircraft would be assembled in Mobile, Ala., and the KC-30 team would employ 25,000 American workers at 230 U.S. companies. On January 14, 2008 it was announced that EADS would co-locate the production of the Northrop Grumman KC-30 Tanker platform and the Airbus A330 civilian freighter aircraft at its Mobile, Alabama aerospace center of excellence, resulting in a robust final assembly line that ensures low risk, high efficiency and increased capacity for both military and commercial customers. This decision was dependent on U.S. Air Force selection of Northrop Grumman's KC-30 Tanker as its new aerial refueling platform.
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