The Omega Air KDC-10 tanker is here to remind visitors that a contract air refueling service is readily available. It brought the two Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornets across the Atlantic to Farnborough last week; the U.S. Navy is Omega’s prime customer, buying about 85 percent of the Irish company’s tanking output, which was nearly 1,600 hours last year with the KDC-10 and three KC-707s.
Omega has been providing its turnkey refueling service for 12 years now. Other customers have included Saab, for the Gripen, and Bell Boeing, for the V-22. The former Japan Airlines DC-10-40 cost about £10 million (about $15 million) to convert and certify as the KDC-10, plus another £15 million (around $22 million) for three new engines and an overhaul that provides for 25 years more service.
In the past four years, the Royal Australian Air Force has been providing about 10 percent of Omega’s tanker business. Delays in the development and certification of the RAAF’s Airbus A330MRTTs have left the service without the means to air-refuel its Super Hornets. The RAAF retired its 707 tankers in 2008–and they were bought by Omega.
The UK Ministry of Defence this week denied, when asked by AIN, rumors that the Royal Air Force’s new A330MRTTs would miss their in service date, which calls for nine aircraft to be available by May 2014. The RAF’s last VC-10 tankers will be withdrawn from service next March, followed by the Lockheed Tristars in March 2014. Perhaps not surprisingly, Omega is standing by–just in case.