The first sentence sums up the problem

How Big Is Too Big? Size Weighs Into Long Tanker Search

This explains why the tanker problem is getting worse instead of better:

The U.S. Air Force wants new tanker planes, but carrying fuel is no longer the driving concern.

This article is a good summing up of the issues that Murdoc has been harping on lately:


  1. I don’t see why this is such a huge deal. It is in the nature of things that a tanker plane is going to be mostly empty space as fuel is dense and heavy. Making sure that the empty space is usable for standard cargo pallets is sensible. So far, so good. One of the commenters on one of your earlier posts made the point that specialization is not necessarily the ultimate good, since cargo is more important at the front end of a logistical enterprise, and fueling for the middle and end. Given the capabilities of modern commercial jets, this shouldn’t be a painful compromise. The tanker version of the 767 is already in production, so we should just buy some. Its a modern aircraft. The development costs are already paid. We can put cargo or fuel on it. It has parts commonality with some other special purpose aircraft. This shouldn’t be so agonizing.

  2. Actually there is a lot of advantages for automating the tankers. A properly outfitted tanker with the ability to network into the craft to be fueled, would be more efficient, and less likely to cause accidents. With respect to the 767 – given the politics of the issue, I doubt that unless there is a national emergency, that the airforce will ever purchase the craft. That said, if the air force was really looking for a multi-role craft and has issues with flight hour costs, and runway issues = making a blended wing bird has potencial. (with the added plus that the design is inheritly stealthy.)