In recent months, the US Air Force has presented several works regarding the future of its combat fleet as well as its future tanker aircraft. This concerns the 6th generation NGAD fighter program to replace the F-22 in air superiority missions, Loyal Wingman combat drones which will accompany the aircraft as well as certain F-35A, as well as necessary developments concerning its fleet of support aircraft , ranging from early warning aircraft to aerial refueling tankers.
In this last area, apparently, the USAF has taken the lead in the necessary evolution in the making, by canceling the open KCy program to order only 75 KC-46A tanker aircraft from the KCx program , and not 150 as planned. , so as to free up credits and resources for the future tanker aircraft which will be acquired by the KCz program.
Unlike the KC-46A or its European equivalent, the A330 MRTT, the KCz program aims to develop an aircraft capable of operating in a highly contested environment, while the air war in Ukraine has shown that the threat posed by the pair interceptor fighter and long-range air-to-air missile was sensitive and even more effective than anticipated .
Several avenues are being considered to respond to this constraint, such as the use of intermediate tanker drones which, like the Loyal Wingman for combat aircraft, would allow the tankers to operate at a safe distance while the drones bring the fuel. to combat aircraft and drones as close as possible to the engagement zone.
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