Lockheed-Martin and Airbus to face Boeing for new US Air Force tanker contract

In 2008, Airbus, then EADS, and the American Northrop Grumman, won the KC-X competition to supply a new tanker aircraft to the US Air Force, with an aircraft designated KC-45A derived from theDO NOT MRTT. But following legal protests from Boeing, which offered its KC-46, the decision was made to cancel the competition and make it a new one. Faced with intense lobbying from the American firm, and the withdrawal of Northrop Grumman from the partnership with EADS, the Seattle aircraft manufacturer finally won the new competition in 2011, on the basis of a Boeing B-767 adapted to the needs of the 'US Air Force, and designated KC-46A. An order for 179 aircraft was then signed, with a first delivery of 18 tankers for 2018. The rest, we know it: while the Boeing program saw its deadlines fly to reach full operational capacity by 2023 at best, and the costs will grow by $ 5 billion, partly borne by Boeing itself. At the same time, the A330 MRTT proved to be a great operational and commercial success, the aircraft being in service or commanded by 13 air forces around the world, and having largely proven its worth, including in combat in the hands of French or British pilots.

However, the 179 aircraft ordered by the US Air Force only represent a quarter of its tanker fleet, and a new competition must be launched in the coming months, this time designated KC-Y and involving a second batch of 160 new tanker planes to be delivered from 2029. Boeing will naturally offer its KC-46A, already in service with the USAF, which undoubtedly represents a major asset, despite the tumultuous history of the device that pto resolve some critical points, for example the night vision system allowing the refueling operator, called the Boom, to aim the refueling nozzle on the back of American aircraft. But on the strength of the proven success of its A330 MRTT, Airbus intends, once again, to defend its chances against Boeing in an attempt to secure a major contract unlike any other in this area.

KC46A and F35 Defense News | Germany | Aircraft Tankers
The KC-46A Pegasus encountered many technical and industrial difficulties during its development

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