The KC-46A proposal from Boeing to the US Air Force is based on the civilian Boeing 767-200ER (Extended Range variant with additional fuel tanks generally installed at the expense of cargo carrying capabilities). The passenger variant first delivered in 1984 equipped with either 2 x Pratt and Whitney PW 4062 (with 63,000 pounds of thrust) engines, 2 x GE CF6-80C2B6F (rated at 60,000 pounds thrust) or 2 x CF6-80C2B7F. Department Of Defense In various Statements Of Objectives communications to suppliers,the Department Of defense indicated that basic airframes would be delivered minus specific components; such as the Large Aircraft Infrared Counter-Measures (LAIRCM), the Guardian Laser Transmitter Assemblies (GLTA) and the Wing Refueling Pods. The basic unencumbered airframe with protective covers on all fuselage subsystems attachment points will be in fact very much like a basic 767-200. Various Boeing provided artist’s renderings of the KC-46A show the aircraft with aerodynamic Blended Winglets from Boeing Aviation Partners. These lift devices attach to the tip of the aircraft wings and provide aerodynamics efficiency by basically extending the length of the wings. They provide very low cost performance improvements on aircraft without structural modifications or major system re-design. Naturally these systems are proliferating with airlines because of the cost savings in fuel consumption (frequent visitors to Newark airport KEWR will notice the winglets on Continental Airlines Boeing 767, 757 and 737) . Boeing Aviation Partners have obtained Supplemental Type Certificates for modifying Boeing 737-300, 737-500, 737-900, 757-200, 757-300, 767-300ER and 767-300ERF with the blended winglets. They are marketed as Buyer Furnished Equipment (BFE) or Seller Purchased Equipment (SPE) for installation during aircraft production. We have not however been able to identify Boeing 767-200 series Supplemental Type Certificate for the Boeing Aviation Partners Blended Winglets with Federal Aviation Administration at this point.
Center Line Refueling Boom
The most significant airframe modification on the KC-46A is the installation of the FRU (Fuselage Refueling Unit) housing; the pressurized cabin used the boom operator. The centerline flight refueling boom that terminates the boom operator cabin uses fly-by-wire V-tail ‘ruddervators’. This advanced technology (5th generation according to Boeing) is supplemented by camera systems available to the boom operator delivers a greater precision across a wider envelope of flight parameters. We anticipate that the primary supplier of boom refueling kits for the KC-767 International Tanker (and also the KC-10A program ) ; UK-based Smiths Aerospace has been acquired by General Electric in January 2007 and currently operate as part of General Electric Aircraft Systems.
Hose Drum Units (HDU).
The KC-46A HDUs hose and basket systems allow compatibility with NATO aircraft (Eurofighter Typhoon, Tornado family, Rafale, Saab Gripen etc..) and US Navy and Marine Corps ( V-22 Osprey, F-18E/F etc..). The KC-46A is set to be operating one centerline hose that is retractable using a pulley systems, and according to DoD’s Statements Of Objectives two optional wing mounted systems provided as kits including two pods, two pylons (one pylon per pod), and associated hardware required to install the pods on the aircraft (e.g., pod-to-aircraft harness assemblies, o-rings, gaskets, bolt). On February 24th 2011, Cobham Plc. A United Kingdom supplier of aerospace and defense systems announced that it had been selected by Boeing to supply 30 pairs of wing mounted aerial refueling pods as well as all the centerline drogue systems covering the 179 projected KC-46A. Components will be manufactured at Cobham Mission Equipment Division facility at Davenport, Iowa.
Counter Measures and Defensive Systems
The sensitive nature of military systems installed on the KC46A makes it very difficult to identify key components and capabilities, however the Air Force Request For Proposals documents describe the presence of passive and active defensive countermeasures. A full suite of Directional Infrared Counter Measure (DIRCM) systems providing advanced protection against Infra Red targeting systems such as MANPAD ( Man Portable Air Defense Systems). The suite comprises 3 turrets attached to the fuselage that provide Large Aircraft Infra Red Counter Measures (LAIRCM) Defensive Systems and also supplemented by Guardian Laser Transmitter Assemblies (GLTA). These systems will be provided by Northrop Grumman Systems Corporation, Electronic Systems, Land and Self Protection Systems Division, Rolling Meadows, IL.
We also identify integrated defensive systems of a more passive nature as their sole role is to provide the crew with enhanced tactical information in order to improve survivability. These systems include SA (situational awareness) tactical displays incorporating Radio Frequency based enemy detection systems, IFF (Identification Friends or Foes), tactical data link and Aircrew Laser Eye Protection (ALEP).
Boeing main marketing pitch to the Air Force was that although The Boeing 767 was originally conceived in 1978, the newer tanker would nonetheless benefit from all the technological advances that have been realized by the manufacturer. In 2003 during the initial phase of the RFP the highly successful Boeing 777 was the most advanced Boeing commercial aircraft ever. However the 777 has been supplanted by the revolutionary 787. Logically we have turned to the 787 program in order to uncover some of the core systems that will deliver value to the Air Force. What we have found is that the Boeing 787 electrical systems are built to provide efficiency and passenger comfort to an unprecedented levels. We are therefore convinced that the passenger transport requirement on the KC-46A does not justify the level of technological advances (and probably cost) introduced with the Boeing 787. However we are convinced that Boeing will still turn to its main 787 electrical systems supplier Hamilton Sundstrand for at least part of the Tanker main electrical system.
-Auxiliary Power System (APS)
-Environmental Control System (ECS)
-nitrogen generation system (NGS)
-Electrical Power Generating and Start System (EPGSS)
and Remote Power Distribution system (RPDS)
These subsystems would be assembled at Hamilton Sundstrand APSIF (Airplane Power Systems Integration Facility) in Rockford, Illinois alongside 787 major electrical systems.
Avionics Systems (We Are Revealing The Boeing 787 And 747-8 Entire Suite Of Avionics As They Apply In Part To The KC-46A)
We are now revealing what we thinks is a very complete list of the Boeing 787 Avionics systems.
We believe that successful Federal Aviation Administration certifications for the 787 program will make it possible to integrate most of the same systems in the KC-46A, as well as the 747-8. In that way Boeing will only have to receive one set of certifications for 3 different models. This approach will also guarantee that although based on a 1970 era design the KC-46A will be a state-of-the-art aircraft delivering strong value to the Air Force and the taxpayers.
We identify Rockwell Collins as the main avionics systems supplier on the 787 and thus 747-8 and KC-46A programs. We observe that the Boeing 787 (and therefore the KC-46A) uses 4 x 15,1” LCD AFD dashboard navigation displays and 1 x 15.1” look-down display on the main center console while
the Boeing 747-8 will have a 5 x 15.1” LCD AFD main dashboard navigation displays plus another look-down 15.1” navigation display supplemented by 3 x TCP-2100 smaller display on the center console almost identical to the Boeing 787.
787 Display and Crew Alerting Hardware
-Four Graphics Generator Module (GGM-2100).
-Five Adaptive Flight Displays (AFD-2100) are 15.1” LCD screen on the Boeing 787 glass cocpit
-Two Heads-Up Displays (HCU-2200 & HPU-2200)
-Two Multi-Function Keypads (MKP-2100)
-Two Cursor Control Devices (CCD-2100)
-Two Display Control Panel (DCP-2100).
-Two Remote Light Sensors (RLS-2100) The RLS senses ambient light allowing the AFD to compensate LCD brightness levels
787 Communication Sub Systems
-Two High Frequency Systems (HFS-900D)
-Two Couplers, HF (CPL-920D)
-Three very high frequency receivers (VHF-2100)
-Three very high frequency antennas (VHFA-2100)
-Two satellite receiver/transmitters (SRT-2100)
-Two High Gain Antennas (HGA-2100)
-Two Diplexer, Low Noise Amps (DLNA-2100)
-Two SATCOM HGA Antenna Adapter Plates (SAA)
-Three Tuning & Control Panels (TCP-2100)
787 Surveillance Subsystem
-two integrated surveillance systems (ISS-2100)
-one Alerting & Transponder Panel (ATP-2100).
-two Traffic System Antenna (TSA-2100)
-two antenna receiver/transmitter (RTM-2100)
-one antenna pedestal (DRV-2100)
-one antenna flat plate (WFA-701X).
787 Audio Subsystem
-three Audio Control Panels (ACP-2100)
-four Audio Jack Panels (AJP-2100)
-four Audio Gateway Units (AGU-2100)
-four Headsets (HDST-2100)
-two Flight Deck Speakers (SPKR-2100)
-Hand Microphone Jack Panel (HMJP)
787 Recorder Subsystem
-Two Enhanced Airborne Flight Recorder (EAFR-2100).
-One Recorder Independent Power Supply (RIPS-2100).
-One Area Microphone & Preamplifier (AMP-2100).
Under a rigorous and much disputed KC-X program, the Air Force has been able to decrease KC-46A unit cost to about $195 million. Our 2002 (year of the KC-X RFP) price list had the Boeing 767-200ER bracketed between $101 million and $112 million adjusting for inflation this price would be $242 million today.
Overall the selection of the KC-46A is characterized by tremendous reduction in program management risks thanks to the highly regraded Boeing 767 record. However significant difficulties have impacted the 787 program, bringing into question the maturity of both out-sourcing major technology component systems and its underlying management. Very recently the 787 testing and certification process seems to have regained momentum, auguring well for the KC-46A. Overall we are convinced that the KC-46A lower cost per unit and its commonality with airlines’ 767s is offering the Air Force the lowest possible cost alternative for replacing the KC-135 family. We are looking forward to the KC-Y program that will feature a replacement candidate for the robust USAF KC-10 fleet. We can anticipate that very strong proposals will come from the larger and incredibly successful Boeing 777 (now available as a-200 variant Long Range Freighter) or some sort of Boeing 787-9 derivative.