KC-X Tanker RFP

Air Force Posts Request for Proposals for Tankers

DefenseLink News Release:

The RFP stipulates nine primary key performance parameters: air refueling capability, fuel offload and range at least as great as the KC-135, compliant communication, navigation, surveillance/air traffic management equipage, airlift capability, ability to take on fuel while airborne, sufficient force protection measures, ability to network into the information available in the battle space, survivability measures and provisioning for a multi-point refueling system to support Navy and allied aircraft.

Payton stressed that the department has gone through a rigorous review process for KC-X and has validated that the RFP accurately reflects the requirements as laid out by the warfighter.

The final RFP defines an integrated, capability-based, best-value approach. It includes specific factors for assessing the capability contribution of each offeror. Along with cost and assessments of past performance and proposal risk, these factors provide the source selection authority with excellent means to determine the best value between proposals of significantly differing capabilities and cost.

All sorts of documents are available here.

UPDATE: More at Strategy Page: KC-135, KC-767, KC-30 or KC-777?

UPDATE 2: Good summary found in the comments: Air Force tanker request gives Boeing edge, for now


  1. I sounds like Airbus will be pulling its bid: Northrop has been seeking a bid that would include an ambitious cargo-carrying ability that would justify the higher price of its aircraft, as compared to Boeing’s 767 offering. Analysts were skeptical that the changes made by the Air Force would be sufficient in Northrop’s eyes. ‘When you strip away all those additions what you discover is the same basic selection criteria is still there,’ said Loren Thompson, a defense analyst for the Virginia-based Lexington Institute. ‘It hasn’t changed.’ It still doesn’t make any sense to use a commercial airliner for this role. They’d be much better off to use a combination subsonic bomber platform. That would be thinking outside the bureaucracy, and we all know the USAF never does that.

  2. KC-747 idea was floated before… but, if I remember correctly, it would’ve been a case for diminishing returns in terms of cost and capability. 747s arent cheap, and they are in high demand to commercial customers. The reason the KC-767 is popular is because with the launching of the B-787 Dreamliner, Boeing will no longer have civilian customers for new 767s, and then they can simply gear production for KC-767s. The B-777 is heading for the same fate since the B-787 is going to reduce demand for it… In the end, the KC-777 is not a viable option because of the time required to outfit it. The KC-330 (based on the airbus design) is also a no-go. Due to cost. The KC-767 is the best bet if the USAF wants tankers RIGHT NOW. The KC-777 is the best if they want a tanker/cargo/passenger bird. But with the current tanker demand in the USAF/USN, I highly doubt that the KC-777 may be chosen. But the KC-767 will. That is if Mr. Mccain doesnt go and kill the program because he hates Boeing. Because an order this large is sure as hell not going to some foreign company.

  3. I doubt the 777 sales will be greatly affected by the 787. They are two different animals that do different things. I agree that a foreign company would never get the order (though my wallet wants the Competition) Personally, I think Defens has the right thinking here. Using this program to make a common subsonic platform that could be easily converted into bomber, tanker, cargo and what not, would save a good deal of money.

  4. Does anyone know if the 767 tankers that Boeing sold to Italy are working? Last I’d heard, they were having trouble with them, specifically something with the new boom that Boeing had designed. IMHO, Boeing shouldn’t even be allowed to bid on the tanker contract, or any other Govt contract for that matter. After their behavior the first time around with the tankers (USAF was far from blameless) and being caught a couple years prior with stacks of Lockheed documents a couple feet high (Boeing space missile group was debarred for a couple years for this), Boeing’s lucky to be bidding at all. If they weren’t Boeing, they wouldn’t be bidding. Never thought I’d be in favor of a French/Euro company….

  5. Ha, all good points, Pentagon, but the USAF is in a bind of their own making. Had they the sense to do a bomber/tanker platform, they could have had a Lockmart/Boeing/Northrop competition. Instead they went sole source to Boeing and used Airbus to get some contractual concessions. We’ll still manage to get raped somehow, I feel sure. This is the USAF that thought the United Launch Alliance would be a good thing. It doesn’t make much sense having high observable tankers in this day of stealth. It never made sense to use commercial airplanes for the tanking role. They rarely carry cargo, so the whole upper deck/passenger area contributes nothing but drag.

  6. The upper deck can be configured to carry fuel tanks, no? Just add a hinging front door and roll in two of them. A better solution is a combined powered airfoil/airship… those airships which are lighter than air, have a lifting body, yet still need power to stay in flight. They wont be too stealthy, but they can fill multiple roles like cargo lifting (like HUGE loads) and sensor platforms.

  7. Yeah, you can carry fuel tanks up there, but if you fill them you’ll never get off the ground. The cargo density of a passenger airplane is too low for fuel. It is pretty close between a bomber and a tanker. Hell, that’s aircraft design 101 stuff. You’d think the pros at the Pentagon would be all over that stuff. Yeah, I keep forgetting that politics beats science every time. Those combined airfoil shaped balloons can carry fuel, but they’d better have a deck for the airplanes to land on too because they fly way too slow for anything to tank off of them. You probably couldn’t even tank a helo with one because it would go fast enough to keep the hose out of the rotor. And talk about vulnerable, you could shoot one down with a WW1 Sopwith Camel. That was one of their missions.

  8. You can make a hybrid airship stealthy. In fact it would comparatively easier to do so, as the since your performance range is narrow since the shape penalty would be small. The hard part will be your size. I think they would make great cargo craft. Their size also lends them to be great bases for lasers or EM based weapons.