Ten weeks after the deadline for comments on the draft RFP for the latest attempt to procure a new KC-X aerial refueling tanker, the Pentagon has still not released the final document. It now says to expect this by the end of the month, and that some changes have been made. Northrop Grumman said it would not bid unless the final RFP was changed to give credit for the greater capacity of the A330MRTT (aka KC-45).
According to Airbus Military officials, the A330 Multi-Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) has won all the recent competitions for a large aerial tanker because of its superior airframe, coupled to a unique, high-technology refueling system. “We’re very proud of our in-house boom,” said Peter Scoffham, vice president for defense capability marketing.
Airbus Military is increasingly confident about the technical progress of the A400M airlifter, but has refused to comment on the difficult, ongoing negotiations with the European launch nations over cost and timescale.
Boeing unveiled the first F/A-18F Block II Super Hornet for the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) at a July 8 ceremony in St. Louis. The aircraft manufacturer is building 24 Super Hornets for Australia, in two batches of 12. The first aircraft is due to be delivered in March 2010, and Australian production will run at roughly one per month. The aircraft will have APG-79 AESA radar installed.
As negotiations to secure a future for Europe’s troubled A400M airlifter continue, the UK government is taking the hardest line with Airbus Military, and moving quickly to secure alternative solutions. At the meeting of defense ministers in Seville, Spain, last month, the UK vetoed a Franco-German proposal to delay a final decision until December.
Northrop Grumman has now equipped more than 400 aircraft of 42 types with its AAQ-24(V) Nemesis directed infrared countermeasures system, which is designed to protect aircraft against shoulder-launched missiles, or Manpads. The original plasma lamp-based turret gave way to the eye-safe Viper laser from 2002, and the system continues to be in great demand. Now the company is examining a range of new applications for Nemesis.
Airbus and Northrop Grumman are reluctant to discuss the status of the two KC-45s (A330s) built for the KC-X USAF tanker competition in advance of the award of the contract to Northrop Grumman by the Pentagon last year. Northrop Grumman offered the aircraft as proof of its serious intent in pursuing the requirement. The first KC-45 was flown to Dresden for the addition of a main-deck cargo door by EADS-EFW.
While Boeing and Northrop Grumman/EADS prepare to lock horns again for the U.S. tanker replacement program, one might be forgiven for thinking that there were only two sources for modern jet tankers. IAI’s Bedek Aviation Group would certainly disagree.
Battle lines were drawn here this week for round three of the Great Tanker War. Conflict is likely to break out next month, when the Pentagon is expected to issue a new draft request for proposals (RFP) for the KC-X program. Boeing said that it may now offer a tanker version of the 777.
Orders for more than 1,400 A330s and A340s has been the Airbus reward for 15 years of continuous innovation, including the introduction of A340-600-technology flight deck, cabin, systems and structures upgrades across the range in 2002-04.