New Tanker to Bring Increased Capabilities to Warfighter
New Tanker to Bring Increased Capabilities to
Washington D.C. -- (AFPN) March
3, 2008 -- Air Force officials here announced Feb. 29 the selection of the
Northrop Grumman Company to replace the aging KC-135 Stratotanker fleet. After
months of reviewing and evaluating proposals from vendors, the source selection
team chose Northrop Grumman to produce up to 179 of the new air refuelers.
A KC-135 Stratotanker undergoes an isochronal inspection at Royal Air Force
Mildenhall, England. The inspection begins with all access panels being removed
to check flight controls. Air Force officials announced the selection of the
Northrop Grumman company to replace the aging KC-135 and to produce up to 179 of
the new air refuelers.
U.S. Air Force
photo/Airman 1st Class Franklin J. Perkins.
The new tanker, called the KC-45A, is expected to enter the test phases in 2010
with the first mission-capable aircraft ready by 2013. The new tanker will bring
increased airlift, force protection and most importantly, air refueling
capabilities to the warfighter, said Lt. Gen. Donald J. Hoffman, military deputy
in the office of the assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition at the
Throughout the selection process, Air Force officials evaluated proposals based
on the vendors' ability to meet nine key performance parameters and five
"The performance parameters are the specific requirements we have for the
aircraft, and the evaluation factors are how we grade the vendors on their
ability to meet those requirements. The KC-45A must meet all of the key
performance parameters," General Hoffman said.
The capabilities of the new tanker add increased operational flexibility for the
air mobility world. The ability to provide aerial refueling for both boom-and-receptacle
and probe-and-drogue aircraft in the same sortie is one example.
Numerous KC-135 Stratotankers sit
on the flightline at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska
Currently, for most KC-135s to conduct probe-and-drogue refueling operations, a
boom-drogue adapter must be attached to the boom before takeoff, preventing them
from refueling receptacle-equipped aircraft in the same sortie.
"The new tanker will also be able to refuel two probe-equipped aircraft at the
same time, a capability that's available with only 20 of the KC-135 fleet,"
General Hoffman said. "The KC-45A will have the capability to carry an air
refueling pod on each wing. When wing pods are installed, the aircraft can
provide fuel to two Navy or allied fighters at the same time, cutting almost in
half the amount of time it takes a four-ship formation to cycle across the
Another advantage of the KC-45A is the ability to receive fuel, a capability
only a handful of the current tankers possess, the general said. Being able to
receive fuel means it can accept reserve fuel from another tanker allowing it to
remain in the air longer.
The new tanker also will have increased cargo space for passengers, pallets and
medical evacuation, as well as increased force protection measures against
surface-to-air missiles, allowing it to traverse and land in high-threat
"The KC-45 is a tanker first, but the cargo capacity will be very useful," the
general said. "The new tanker will be able to haul people and cargo directly to
military airfields instead of having to cross-load onto C-130 (Hercules aircraft)
or C-17 (Globemaster IIIs), which is what we do now. It can also download fuel
to storage bladders on the ground, which can be used to power ground vehicles
instead of having convoys on the road. These are tremendous capabilities for air
Air Force officials were committed to making a decision that would provide the
best overall value to the warfighter and the taxpayers, he said.
"Although the contract will be awarded to Northrop Grumman, the real winners are
the warfighter, the taxpayers and the nation," General Hoffman said. "For the
warfighters, we are replacing old equipment with modern capability; the
taxpayers are getting the best value deal in a very competitive environment; and
the nation will maintain the capability to project air power and be responsive
to its global responsibilities for decades to come."
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