Just last week I noted that the F-22 Raptor is transmogrifying into the F/A/R/C/E-22 Swiss Army Knife. Now it appears that “all missions, all the time” is becoming SOP in the Air Force:
Competition for the contract to build a new aerial refueling tanker likely won’t start until 2007 because the service wants a plane that can carry cargo, reconnaissance sensors and troops as well as fuel, Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne said today.
“I think 2006 is still going to be a development year,” Wynne said in an interview in his Pentagon office. “Tankers are not only tankers any more. They are going to be multi-mission aircraft.”
Again, if additional useful things can be added in a cost-effective manner to existing aircraft, by all means go ahead. But don’t make those options major selling points if you’re the manufacturer or requirements if you’re the buyer. The Air Force wants, and probably needs, new tankers. But let’s not make them so complex and expensive that they never get off the ground. Or that half of them get cancelled for budgetary reasons.
Then there’s this: DOD’s new transportation chief seeks multi-mission tanker
The new head of U.S. Transportation Command said Nov. 30 that he needs new tanker aircraft with the flexibility to carry cargo or passengers as well as fuel.
Air Force Gen. Norton Schwartz, who took the command’s reins in September, said the Air Force should buy new multi-mission tankers “without delay” to replace aging Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker aircraft. Some industry officials have been predicting that cargo capacity might emerge as a key requirement, which would give the budget-constrained Air Force more bang for its tanker buck.
Schwartz, who spoke with reporters after making remarks at the Defense Logistics 2005 conference, declined to say whether the need for a multi-mission tanker or “swing asset” would merit a larger airframe than the KC-135.
The “exact dimensions” are “not the thing that I worry about,” he said. “I establish requirements, and that is that it needs to be multi-mission, it cannot be a single-mission airplane.”
That’s going to set the whole thing back years.
For what it’s worth, I came across this on Airliners.net:
Let’s look at the possibilities from both Airbus and Boeing:
A-330TT, already selected for the RAF and RAAF tankers.
A-340-500, not mentioned before, but carries a lot of fuel.
A-350-800, mentioned several times, newest design, partially composite construction.
KC-135E converted to the KC-135R, by far the cheapest option and still in production (RC-135s), and the quickest production time.
KC-767A, in production for Italy and Japan, and some common parts with the E-10A.
B-777-200ER/LR, mentioned as a Boeing proposal and carries a lot of fuel.
B-787-800, mentioned by Boeing, and is a all composite airplane.
MD-11F, almost common with the KC-10A/KDC-10 but production would have to be reopened, as not many available on the used market.
B-747-400F/ERF, not mentioned before, but the IIAF flys KC-747-200 tankers and carries twice the fuel as most other competitors. Also has swing open nose for cargo missions.
B-747-800F, not mentioned, but the largest of all competitors and carries the most fuel. Like it’s smaller B-747-400F brother has swing open nose for cargo missions. Same very fuel efficient engines as on B-787 and A-350.
Most of these are waaaay outside of Murdoc’s sphere of knowledge. There’s a ton and a half of discussion on that board. Comments?