KC-45 Tanker: 1 and 1 and 1 isn’t 3?

kc-30 tanker refuelling f-22a raptor

Air Force Tanker Decision Driven by Faulty Data

Jed Babbin, editor of Human Events, on the controversial (to say the least) decision to go with the EADS Airbus-based tanker:

The Air Force determined the ability of each competing aircraft to perform the tanker mission using a complex computer model called the –Integrated Fleet Air Refueling Assessment” (–IFARA” in the inevitable military acronym). One key part of that assessment relied on data which determined the capacity of airfields to accept the weight and size of the aircraft.

In mathematical approximations, you –round up” or –round down” fractions to the nearest whole number. A well-informed person who attended that meeting said that the Air Force –rounded up” the data on each airfield’s capacity — the weight-bearing capacity of runways, taxiways and parking ramps and the size of the parking ramps to base enough aircraft — so that if any of those aspects was judged adequate, the entire facility was judged capable of having the aircraft operate from it.

That person said that the IFARA computer model could only accept one variable on the issue of airfield capability. It could not include any differences to account for variances in different parts of each airfield’s capabilities. Thus, the model was flawed and the data fed into it were further skewed by the assumption that the larger aircraft could operate from airfields which in fact it cannot.

This is the sort of thing that, if accurate, can really give Boeing some punch in its protests. Concrete numbers, and especially examples of concrete numbers that don’t add up, could carry the day. This appears to be a case where the numbers simply don’t say what they claim to say.

There are arguments both ways in the tanker size debate, but I’ve long maintained that more smaller tankers will generally serve better than fewer larger tankers. I want the Air Force to get the best tanker available, and I guess that I’m not all that sure that the EADS tanker is it.

Meanwhile: Aussie KC-30 (EADS) Needs Mods. This is the boom that I previously noted the Air Force had been a bit concerned about.

Not that the Boeing plane is without concerns. But EADS should have needed a slam dunk to beat out the 767, and it doesn’t appear that they had one.


  1. Not so much. I know that I’m annoying. I thought perhaps my commentary had run its course here and was no longer welcome. Please let me know if that’s the case, although I realize too that I have not made that easy for you without providing an email address.

  2. Dfens: You are welcome. Yes, you can be annoying at times. But that’s part of your charm. You’re obviously an intelligent and well-informed person.