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Boeing KC-767 Tanker: Sized Right for the Fight


ST. LOUIS.- The KC-767 Advanced Tanker developed by Boeing [NYSE: BA] was sized to meet the aerial refueling requirements of the U.S. Air Force’s mission and exceeded performance requirements to replace the aging, yet storied fleet of KC-135 medium tankers.

Despite the fact that the stated parameters for evaluating the aircraft said no extra credit would be assigned for exceeding certain requirement objectives, the Northrop Grumman and European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company (EADS) team received such credit. As a result, the oversized Airbus A330-based KC-30 was selected. Boeing has protested the decision to the U.S. Government Accountability Office.

According to the Statement of Objectives for the KC-X program, the primary mission of the new tanker would be aerial refueling rather than hauling cargo or transporting passengers. In order to meet the documented mission requirements, Boeing offered the KC-767, which efficiently fulfills the vital mission of a mid-sized aerial refueling fleet while also exceeding the highest requirements for airlift, passenger and aeromedical evacuation capabilities.

“Tanker flight crews are asked to bring the right amount of fuel to the fight in the most efficient, reliable manner, and the KC-767 meets that fundamental requirement,” said Mark McGraw, vice president, Boeing Tanker Programs. "Asking these aircrews to fly longer missions in larger, less survivable planes with more fuel capacity than needed and vast amounts of unused cargo and passenger space just doesn’t add up.

“The Boeing KC-767 exceeded the requirements in a manner that still kept the plane right-sized and efficient,” McGraw said. “Our competition likes to talk about offering more, more, more -- but in reality, the KC-30 will cost more to operate, more to maintain, and more to house, with the U.S. taxpayer footing the bill.”

A larger plane -- like the KC-30 tanker offered by Northrop Grumman and EADS -- simply results in wasted capacity, wasted efficiency and wasted taxpayer dollars.

The contrasts between the KC-767 and the KC-30 are notable and worth considering in determining the appropriate tanker for the mission:

* Fuel Capacity -- The historical average offload on a tanker mission is 60,000 to 70,000 pounds of fuel. The Air Force fuel offload requirement was set at 94,000 pounds of fuel at 1,000 nautical miles, comfortably above the historical average. The KC-767 exceeded the 94,000-pound requirement by 20 percent while remaining within the optimum size for medium tanker operations. The KC-30 fuel capacity exceeded that requirement by 50 percent -- meaning more than half of its fuel load would be unused during an average mission. The result: a large tanker that burns more fuel and requires significantly higher costs in maintenance and support.
* Cargo/Passenger Capacity -- In 2006, the Air Force moved less than 1 percent of its cargo and passengers in tankers. The KC-767 does offer significantly more cargo and passenger capacity than the KC-135, but not at the expense of airplane size or efficiency. Again, the KC-30 carries more passengers and slightly more cargo based on weight, but with a bigger, less survivable and more costly plane.
* Aeromedical Evacuation -- The Air Force Request for Proposals set an objective requirement of being able to carry 24 litters and 26 ambulatory patients. The KC-767 carries 30 litters and 67 ambulatory patients, far exceeding the highest requirement. The Air Force praised the KC-767’s superior aeromedical crew stations, its ability to generate oxygen onboard, and the power provided for aeromedical crew systems. The KC-30 again offered more quantity with less quality and less survivability.


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