New Tanker: “They’re going through all kinds of gyrations”

No. Not the tankers. Those planning the tankers: U.S. mulls possible delay in air tanker -sources

Just when you thought the whole USAF next-generation tanker fiasco couldn’t get any worse, we get this:

Pentagon and U.S. Air Force officials are considering changes to a multibillion-dollar competition for new aerial refueling tankers, including a two-year delay in picking a winning bidder, three sources familiar with the proposal said on Monday.

Two more freaking years before they even select a plane?!? Current plans call for picking a winner next September.

Three sources, who asked not to be identified, said that plan was still an option.

But they said officials were also being briefed on a proposal to fund development work on the refueling tanker by both teams of competitors for several years, which would allow more comprehensive testing and evaluation before a contract award in 2009. [emphasis Murdoc’s]

Ahhh. Two more years of double-funding development work on a plane that was already developed several years ago. Now it’s all starting to make sense.

Murdoc is sure glad there’s not a war on or any increased demand on our current tanker fleet or anything.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch: Army Eyes USAF Tankers for Network Tech.

What? They couldn’t shoehorn Army networking into the F-22?

Army and Air Force officials are exploring whether they will wield aerial tankers to carry Warfighter Information Network-Tactical payloads in order to free up satellite resources, according to the WIN-T program manager.

“Since they’re flying overhead, in the theater of operation, it would not be a significant burden for them to have a radio that’s providing a relay capability [which] reduces the fuel and maintenance costs of having a separate aircraft in the air just to do comms relay,” Army Col. Angel Colon told Inside the Army Nov. 3.

Although the services are only in the “concept discussion and exchanges level,” Colon said he does not anticipate a redesign to the comms payload. “It would be just a matter of getting the other services to accept that this is a viable payload that they can carry.”

WIN-T, projected to cost about $14.2 billion, is supposed to help the Army tap into enough bandwidth to provide mobile, tactical communications to soldiers and their commanders. WIN-T is key to the Future Combat System because FCS will depend on the network to link its 18 different platforms and all of its associated computer-based applications.

Sarcasm aside, this is probably an idea worth exploring. But when one reads the article one gets the idea that the whole concept is still up in the air.

One issue noted was that the GAO was concerned that the technologies planned for the WIN-T system were “not mature”. Considering that the new tankers might not be flying for many years (or “many years +2”) at the current rate, WIN-T technologies have plenty of time to catch up.


  1. Didn’t I read somewhere that one other reason for a delay was to examine potential newer aircraft that would be available when this mess was all sorted out? Thought it was the 777 or 787 (cargo versions) or something that was becoming a possibility for a much better plane that all those on the table at the moment.

  2. KTLA: Yes, that’s one of the arguments for stretching this out. Any maybe it’s even worth it. But a two-year delay is likely to turn into a four-year delay, but at the time it will look like its worth it because of something new just around the corner. At some point we have to pull the trigger and actually DO something instead of just continuously paying folks to keep redesigning the thing. And I don’t think that the alternatives were ‘much’ better, just a little better in some particular ways. As would likely be the case with any alternative design.

  3. This is a power play. They are trying to figure out how many different roles the airplane can have so they can pad the development effort. Remember, the profit margin is the same for development and production, but the risks are lower for development, thus the bottom line profit is higher. The more roles the airplane can accumulate, the larger the power base the program will have. This translates into the political clout required to drag the development period out for much longer than would be possible if they simply built a tanker. This game is so damn tired. You’d think the taxpayers would have caught on by now.

  4. I worked on KC-135’s as an aircraft mechanic in the Air force. I’m still trying to figure out what the hell the problem is with the Air Force. Japan and Itally already have the new KC-767. Why the competition? To make Airbus feel good? I’ve also worked in the civilian world as a maintainer (licensed aircraft mechanic). I’ve seen equivalent Beoing and Airbus aircraft stripped side-by-side in a maintenance hangar. After seeing that, I’ve concluded Airbus aircraft are far too flimsy for me to ever fly in one. France and Germany have stabbed us in the back in the War on Terror. France stabbed us in the back when we asked to overfly F-111’s to bomb Libya – they said ‘no.’ The answer to Airbus for building United States Air force tanker aircraft is NO! Our Air force has flown Boeing tankers for over 50-years. It can just keep on flying Boeing built tankers. Besides, the Air force is also going to have to cough up a 100-million dollars for metric tools to maintain ann Airbus fleet of tankers. We don’t need any tankers from a nation of ‘Cheese Eating Surrender Monkey’s!’ American built tankers, built by American workers is what the Air Force needs. The KC-767 is already developed and being built. There is no need to look any further than Boeing for a new tanker aircraft. Ex-SAC man

  5. You’ll never make a fortune milking the US taxpayer with that kind of thinking. I agree with you though, those Airbus planes are crap.