US Air Force selects KC-30 Tanker

Wow, what a news! The Boeing monopoly for US military planes is finally broken.

The U.S. Air Force announced its selection of the Airbus KC-45A Tanker, culminating a multi-year evaluation. The programme award calls for 179 aircraft with an estimated contract value of US$ 40 billion. The initial KC-45A contract for Northrop Grumman covers four System Design and Development aircraft and is valued at US$ 1.5 billion.

Louis Gallois, CEO of EADS, stated: “We have committed our energies to this important U.S. Air Force programme and to our team mate Northrop Grumman. Selecting a tanker based on the A330 MRTT will provide the U.S. Air Force with the most modern and capable tanker aircraft available today.”

Tom Enders, President and CEO of Airbus said: “Northrop Grumman and the U.S. Air Force can count on the full resources of Airbus to support the KC-45A tanker’s production and delivery. All four System Design and Development aircraft are already in production. Preparatory work is now underway for our commitment to co-locate the final assembly of the tankers and A330 civilian freighter aircraft at Mobile, Alabama, creating the first new large commercial aircraft assembly facility in the U.S. in over 40 years.”

The KC-45A Tanker is based on the EADS Airbus A330 MRTT (Multi Role Tanker Transport). Its airframe is derived from the popular Airbus A330 jetliner produced by EADS’ Airbus Division, of which more than 880 have been ordered worldwide in passenger and freighter configurations. The Military Transport Aircraft Division (MTAD) is responsible within the EADS Group for all military derivative programmes based on Airbus platforms, including tankers.

The KC-45A Tanker assembly will employ 25,000 workers at 230 U.S. companies. The KC-45A’s refueling systems will be built at new facilities in Bridgeport, W.Va., and delivered to the KC-45A Production Center for aircraft integration.

The KC-45A will be built by a team led by Northrop Grumman, and includes primary subcontractor EADS North America and General Electric Aviation, Sargent Fletcher, Honeywell, Parker, AAR Cargo Systems, Telephonics and Knight Aerospace.

Compared to the Boeing KC-135 (based on the 707), the EADS KC-45 (based on the A330) has 25% more fuel capacity, much higher payloads and its General Electric CF6-80E1A4B engines feature 3 times more thrust.

Source: Airbus, Northrop Grumman

19 thoughts on “US Air Force selects KC-30 Tanker”

  1. Who wrote this story?? The KC-135/KC-135B is essentially based on the B707 (4 engines) not the B767 (a big twin), so comparing engine thrust ratings, payloads and capacities is meaningless. This is like comparing apples and oranges. The CF6-80s used on the later models of the B767 and the A330/KC-45 are in the same thrust class.

  2. I never saw that coming!! European aircraft seem to be in vogue with the US Armed Forces with the KC-45A, C-27 Spartan and the UH-72 Lakota. I wonder whether they’ll replace the F-16 with Typhoon? Lol I would have sworn that the USAF would have selected the KC-767, given the view on Capitol Hill that the A330 MRTT was a “French” aircraft, and the fact that Italy and Japan have bought the 767.

  3. excuse me, grump, what typo? Michael wrote “Compared to the Boeing KC-135 (based on the 707), the EADS KC-45 (based on the A330) has 25% more fuel…”, there is no typo involving “767” you can Ctrl F and look for yourself. Michael, don’t apologize, you made no mistake.

    as to Hotrod, no, the F-16 will never be replaced by an aircraft with half the maneuverability and greater age than the Viper. the Tornado in all its forms may be incredibly advanced and versatile, but then again so is the Falcon, so no, it will never happen. i’m gonna assume you were joking… otherwise, very true, Boeing was favored to win, that scandal earlier might have played a part in their defeat. does this mean an A-330 will compete with the E-767?

  4. a330 vs B767
    The a330 does not use clad aluminum. This will lead to corrosion problems once these airframes accumulate hours and cycles. Cladding is the last line of defense against corrosion. Chemcial conversion, primer and paint are easily replaced. I know some A&P’s who have done “C” and “D” checks on airbuses. When panels are pulled on mid to high time aircraft, aluminum corrsion product is found.
    So with the dollar being down versus the euro, maintnenace costs will go much higher than the Air Force has let on. Not to mention the fact that the acquisition cost will go up.
    Proven airframe. It is also much more flexible in the modern theatre. It can go more places which makes it available to the commander in the field.
    I have already contacted my Senators and requested that Assistant Secretary Peyton be relieved of her post for dereliction of duty.
    For F-14D Rocks: Without the venerable KA-6D for many years, the Tomcat didn’t go anywhere.
    I did 3 tours in the A6 in my 20 years(1973-1993) in Naval Aviation.
    Old Retired First Class Petty Officer

  5. well, at least someone is using their full privileges as a citizen, contacting senators. I truly commend that, too many people nowadays take all that (including voting) for granted.

    and of course the Tomcat needed the KA-6D, every single naval aircraft did. there are so many things wrong right now with naval aviation, i dont want to go into it right now, you can check out my posts on the “Video – F-22 Raptor VS SU-37 VS SU-30 VS Eurofighter Typhoon” or my blog, just click the link

  6. Boeing lost and now thousands of people are out of work. You seem to praise the decision and then proudly note that EADS will create 25,000 jobs in the US to build the tanker. But what about the 20,000 that won’t get work because the decision. That’s right Boeing’s tanker was going to produce 44,000 jobs.

  7. I said TYPHOON, F-14s Rock. LOL It was meant to be a joke and I never mentioned Tornado! Apart from that, I was just ruminating on the troubles with the CSAR-X program, as that was fraught with difficulty too. I wonder who decided that the KC-X program was more important, as the US Armed Forces are really beginning to see problems with the Black Hawk fleet.

    Admittedly, even with the KC-45 selected, it’s going to take a few years (decades, even!) to replace the KC-135 fleet. It is possible that some of the KC-135R airframes currently in service may reach their century!

  8. sorry, hotrod, my mistake, but the point stands, the F-16 will never be replaced by the EF-2000.

    as to the importance of KC-X, the way the air force sees it is: they lose their tankers, and automatically 2/3 of their long-range strike capability is gone. however, you do need strike aircraft with which to deliver the weapons and tank from the new tankers, and right now the F-15s are falling apart; only a matter of time before the Falcons follw suit, and then we only have around 200 Raptors.

    as to Michael, are we sure it’s the better airplane?

  9. 25% extra fuel capacity than the KC-135R does not mean much if it burns the fuel 25% or more faster than the KC-135R. The amount of fuel a tanker burns per hour is where it makes it’s money, not on total fuel capacity. The tanker has to burn the same gas that it offloads. I will be interested to see how much larger the fuel burn per hour is due to the larger takeoff gross weights of the A-330. I would venture to guess they burn almost 50% more gas than a KC-135R per hour, effectively making it a waste of time as a tanker. Before you ask, 4 engines does not mean a larger fuel burn. The KC-135R sips gas compared to most large aircraft.

    My guess is the cargo numbers impressed someone and they forgot to check what it could really do as a tanker. But, I could be wrong. It might burn less, but I kind of doubt it. You have to have a lot of power to get 500K pounds of aircraft off the deck.

  10. Did you read the PDF? The KC-30 has a better fuel efficiency compared to KC-767 & KC-135R. Sure, the fuel burn is higher, but that’s no surprise for a larger plane with higher payload. At the end, after 1000NM, the KC-30 can offload more fuel than KC-767 or KC-135. (KC-30: 130k lbs, KC-767: 117k lbs, KC-135R: 100k lbs) (Source: NG)

    Fuel burn:
    KC-130R: 6000 lb/hr
    KC-30: 5000 lb/hr (rounded up – allegedly it’s somewhere around 20% more than KC-767)
    KC-767: 4000 lb/hr

  11. Sorry Micheal, I missed the PDF. Is it in the article or on another post somewhere else?

    However, the quoted fuel burn numbers are misleading. The KC-135R only burns 6000 lb/hr when it is very light. I have a hard time believing that the 330 and 767 numbers quoted are not the same way. I’m guessing the numbers for both aircraft are at least double if not more for a fully grossed out jet.

    Plus, the 1000NM is misleading too. Most jets fly around at 400 KTAS (ball park) or even faster if they are able to get higher with favorable winds. That being said, 1000NM is only a 2.5 to 3 hour mission depending on winds. The available offload should be much higher on a 3 hour sortie (assuming a maximum gross weight). I would have to read the PDF you reference to better understand how they are arriving at these numbers.

    Don’t get me wrong, I think Airbus makes a great aircraft. Some of the numbers just don’t make sense.

  12. It’s hard to find any correct numbers for fuel burn. Depending on the source, the numbers can vary a lot.
    For the KC-30: Some sources state it’s 9% more than KC-767, Boeing even states it’s 23%-25% more. To be honest, you can’t believe both. So I just rounded it up.

    For the KC-130R: I just used the number stated in this article:

    For the KC-767: I can’t find the source anymore, stating 4000. Sorry. 🙁

    Generally, any manufacturer states their product to be “the best and most fuel efficient” and is trying to bash on the competitor, but I couldn’t find any official specification containing some definite numbers for fuel burn.

    The PDF I was talking about was: (Page 2) (Page 2)

  13. There’s one number that all three planes have in common that often invalidates many of the other stats, and that is:

    Number of booms – 1

    None of those ‘better’ numbers will help an 8-ship of F-16’s get their 3k apiece any quicker, what you need is a second tanker. And when there’s no ramp space left at the deployed location suddenly that ‘fuel offlad at 1000 NM’ stat is important again, because that’s how far the Airbus will have to fly to get there. Yes, it’s a more capable aircraft, but unless they add another boom, you have to ask – what’s the cost of that extra ‘capability’.