KC-777 Widebody Tanker & Transport
In late September 2006, Boeing began discussing the KC-777 at the Air Force Association conference. This was not a publicity stunt. Boeing said it wanted to provide a glimpse of what a true large tanker would look like and why it would make an incredible platform in the future. One day after the Air Force issued a draft request for tanker bids, Boeing began publicly selling the benefits of a 777 tanker. Boeing used the September 2006 Air Force Association annual meeting in Washington, DC, to brief reporters for the first time on the KC-777 tanker.
Mark McGraw, Boeing's vice president of tanker programs, told reporters that Boeing would not decide until later, after receiving the final request for proposals from the Air Force, whether to initially offer the Air Force the 767 or 777. "we want to understand the needs of the Air Force customer. That knowledge will tell us how we can best provide the customer with low-risk solutions. It's important to understand those requirements and follow the internal process that will lead to offering the best possible platform for the U.S. Air Force. Boeing believes the KC-767 is a great replacement for the KC-135. But if requirements change and the Air Force wants a larger tanker, we can fulfill that need with a KC-777 Tanker."
Both the 777 and 767 commercial jets are assembled at Boeing's plant in Everett, and the tankers also would be built there. Modification work required to turn the base plane into tankers would also be done at the Everett plant on separate tanker-assembly lines. In addition to carrying much more fuel than the KC767, the KC-777 could carry up to 37 cargo pallets, compared with 19 for the 767. The KC-777 also could be converted into a transport for up to 320 passengers, while the 767 could carry only about 200 passengers.
The KC-777 tanker is based on Boeing's new long-range 777-200LR, which entered airline service in 2006. It is the world's longest-range passenger plane. Boeing used the 777-200LR design as the basis for its 777 freighter, which was in development. The development process would take about three years. However, much of the technologies and experiences of creating a tanker from a 767 would be applicable in the case of a KC-777. Also, the commercial freighter version of the 777 had matured, and that also would decrease the developmental risk of converting the 777 to a tanker.
The KC-777 would be 209 feet long with a wingspan of 212 feet, 7 inches. That's the same size as the 777-200LR commercial jet. The KC-777 would be able to carry far more fuel, cargo and passengers than either the KC-767 or the Airbus A330 tanker. The KC-767 offers more operational flexibility, while the KC-777 would be better suited for long-range strategic missions in which more cargo needs to be delivered. The KC-777 would be able to carry more than 350,000 pounds (160,000 kilograms) of fuel and offload more than 220,000 pounds (100,000 kg) of it on a mission of 500 nautical miles (900 kilometers). On the other hand, the KC-767 can lift off with more than 200,000 pounds (90,000 kg) of fuel and offload more than 130,000 pounds (60,000 kg) in a similar mission. The KC-777 would be able to deliver 200 percent more fuel after flying 1,000 nautical miles than older Air Force KC-135s. The KC-777 could carry up to 37 pallets of cargo, compared to the 19 pallets for the KC-767.
Long-range and cargo capacity make the 777 the best tanker option for missions where maximum fuel offload and cargo/passenger capabilities are paramount. The 777 provides extended payload range, strong fuel offload performance and hauling capacity that exceeds 170,000 pounds (77,000 kilograms) of cargo. With its fuel-efficient design, it would excel at supporting global strike and aircraft deployment missions.
The same technology would appear in both a 767 and 777 tanker. The boom operator's station was developed with the boom operator in mind. The station is located near the flight deck and features a third-generation Remote Vision System that provides a 185-degree field of view and offers full control of air refueling. The fly-by-wire boom is fifth-generation; it's compatible with all U.S. Air Force receivers and offers the highest fuel transfer rates available. In addition, wing aerial refueling pod and centerline hose drum technology is all transferable.
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