New Strategic Aircraft (NSA)
Advanced Mobility Aircraft
The USAF "Air Mobility Master Plan" called for the retirement of the C-141 transport by the year 2006 and retirement of the KC-135 tankers to begin in 2013. These 700+ aircraft, 80% of the current mobility fleet, were 25 to 30 years old and were experiencing fatigue and corrosion problems leading to low availability rates. The C-141B represented 35% of the current US strategic airlift capability while the KC-135 comprises 90% of the tanker fleet.
Lockheed Martin Aeronautical Systems (LMAS) studied a new family of mid-size jet transport aircraft, called the New Strategic Aircraft (NSA), to meet U.S. DOD, international, and commercial requirements for:
- military strategic airlift,
- military air refueling,
- military personnel and equipment airdrop,
- commercial cargo and package delivery,
- a commercially viable, military capable CRAF aircraft.
The goal of the NSA program was to develop the standard long range mobility aircraft for the first half of the 21st century. The basic NSA airframe will be a commercially certified aircraft with provisions for modular components and systems to allow the aircraft to evolve to meet changing requirements and missions. Lockheed Martin projects that future airlift aircraft will reduce costs in several areas, starting with high commonality among mission airframes. Modular designs with commercial off-the-shelf equipment might incorporate cockpits or engines and nacelles adapted from commercial aircraft.
The aircraft will be able to perform airlift and tanker missions through the use of integrated modular tanker systems. This will allow the use of one airframe, with the resulting logistics and operational advantages, to fulfill AMC airlift, airdrop, and air refueling missions. In the airlift role, the NSA can carry all the equipment of the Army's light divisions over a 4,000 NM range. The aircraft can airdrop over 150 paratroops or two 60,000 pound airdrop loads. For tanker missions, the aircraft can exceed the fuel offload of the KC-135R while retaining its basic airlift capability.
LMAS Advanced Design engineers have studied over 40 aircraft concepts since the initiation of the NSA project in 1994. The corporation has studied blended wing-bodies (BWBs) and joined-wing configurations, as well as a conventional high-wing design. As the load was better distributed in blended wing-body designs, structural strength need not be so great, and empty weight could be 10 per cent less. The wide-bodied blended-wing aircraft permits side-by-side cargo boxes for large capacity with a small ground footprint.
Efforts were focused on the joined wing configuration and the operational advantages of a tanker aircraft with two refueling booms. Given that the USAF would not replace its current tankers on a one-for-one basis, planners will face a "boom intensive environment" in future conflicts. Instead of a single large wing, the plane would use two wings in a modified canard configuration, a design that would also make for a more stable flight platform.
The revolutionary box wing concept was the current focus of the advanced concept development work at Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company under the AMA program. A box wing configuration provides the operational advantage of multi-point / multi-boom refueling with a reduced aircraft size and advanced aerodynamics. A twin boom aircraft can provide the USAF with the same number of refueling booms, but at half the number of aircraft. The box wing tanker was also equipped with two drogue refueling systems for interservice and international operations. This allows a single aircraft to refuel two receptacle equipped aircraft, two probe equipped aircraft, or one receptacle and one probe equipped aircraft nearly simultaneously. The box wing tanker still retains a full cargo capability including roll-on/roll-off loading of vehicles, equipment, and ISO containers.
Lockheed Martin projected a world-wide market for tanker versions of the NSA at approximately 370 aircraft. Strategic airlift might account for more than 150 airframes, with another 450 aircraft devoted to tactical airlift.
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