Tanker questions: GEnx upgrade for KC-30? KC-747 vs KC-A380?

Two good questions have come in about my post yesterday. I’ll do my best to answer them, but I’d be interested to hear other views as well.

Keesje asks:

Two years ago GE was proposing the GENX for future A330 freighter and tanker applications, as reported by flightglobal.The A330F has more engine ground clearance then the A330.Long term this would probably be the best solution instead of the moderately outdated CF6 and PW4000 offerings.The 15%-20% better fuel efficiency of the GEnx-2B against the CF6-80E1 makes adiiference hard to ignore..

My answer: Yes, the GEnx-2B, which is in development for the 747-8, would be a great alternative to the CF6 family. Of course, you’d have to be willing to wait a few years for it to become available. The GE/Pratt & Whitney joint venture making the GP7200 has a newer offering as well. But General Electric has not been keen to jump on new Airbus freighters lately. GE had the option to offer the CF6 for the A330-200F, but declined. 

GasPasser comments:

That’s the problem when you allow extra credit for exceedingrequirements. We now have an arms race that if unchecked we will end upwith a KC-747F vs a KC-380F contest to replace a 60 YO KC-135 fleet.

My answer: I don’t think we have to fear a KC-747 vs KC-380 face-off, as thrilling as that would be, because the extra credit offer is not open-ended. Boeing and Airbus can receive additional credit for exceeding the THRESHOLD fuel offload requirement. But they get no bonus points for exceeding the OBJECTIVE requirement. I don’t recall off-hand what that range includes, but I believe it stops short of the 747 level, but would include everything in the 767/777/787/A330/A340 range. At the same time, even if either team pursues the most extra credit for fuel offload, they can still be penalized for failing to meet ramp and basing goals. So it’s still a trade-off versus a one-dimensional competition.

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15 Responses to Tanker questions: GEnx upgrade for KC-30? KC-747 vs KC-A380?

  1. HerkEng 26 August, 2008 at 12:46 pm #

    The KC-30/KC-767 are competing for the KC-X competition to replace the KC-135. So, now that the “big, monstrous airplane” won this competition, what is next for the KC-Y and KC-Z? They will have to go big!!

    There was a reason why the KC-747 lost out a long time ago… it will be interesting to see.

    My theory is, if the KC-45A is selected again, then she will also be up for the competition for the KC-Y bird as well.

    If the 767 wins, then they will go 777 for the KC-Y and then onto a modern design for the KC-Z like BWB or of the like.

  2. Stephen Trimble 26 August, 2008 at 12:49 pm #

    A350 and 787 will also be available when KC-Y comes around.

  3. HerkEng 26 August, 2008 at 2:37 pm #

    But the KC-Y is to replace the KC-10… if you are already replacing the KC-135 with a plane that is larger then the KC-10…then wouldn’t you need to go larger or stick with the same size as the KC-45?

    There really isn’t much need for a tanker larger then the KC-10. Honestly, the KC-135 is just about the perfect size for the tanker. They are limited more on crew day then they are on not the ability to carry more fuel.

  4. EG 26 August, 2008 at 2:39 pm #

    “don’t recall off-hand what that range includes, but I believe it stops short of the 747 level, but would include everything in the 767/777/787/A330/A340 range.”

    I wonder if Boeing is going to pull a fast one or rollover and play dead.

  5. John S. 26 August, 2008 at 3:10 pm #

    My answer: I don’t think we have to fear a KC-747 vs KC-380 face-off, as thrilling as that would be, because the extra credit offer is not open-ended. Boeing and Airbus can receive additional credit for exceeding the THRESHOLD fuel offload requirement. But they get no bonus points for exceeding the OBJECTIVE requirement. I don’t recall off-hand what that range includes, but I believe it stops short of the 747 level, but would include everything in the 767/777/787/A330/A340 range.

    That is the problem with the 25 January 2007 SRD. There was no upper limit to the Objective KPP #2 specified. Instead the original rules said no extra credit for exceeding the “Table 3-1″ range vs. offload chart, which served as one disincentive to offering a tanker that was “too big.” (Another was the objective KPP of operating from a 7,000′ runway at MTOW.)

    From the SRD: Fuel Offload and Radius Range (KPP #2) The aircraft shall be capable of fuel offload versus unrefueled radius range as depicted in Figure 3-1 (THRESHOLD, KPP #2). The aircraft should be capable of exceeding the fuel offload versus unrefueled radius range as depicted in Figure 3-1 using the above ground rules (OBJECTIVE, KPP #2).

    So both aircraft submissions met the Objective KPP #2. What was not specified was Passenger/Pallets/Patients minimums. That is where the USAF could have legitimately given extra credit for ‘more.’

    As it stands now, we will have to wait for the revised RFP before we know “how much extra credit” will be given for exceeding the Table 3-1 fuel offload vs. range requirements. We just do not know at this point if the extra credit is open-ended. If it is, we could end up with a KC-747 vs. KC-380 race.

    The mere fact that that it might become a KC-777 vs. KC-30, which as you pointed out could morph into a KC-777 vs. KC-30-300F competition should say something…

  6. NA KOA 26 August, 2008 at 7:24 pm #

    There cannot be a 747 vs. 380 competition. The A380 was ruled out by the RAND AOA as being too large, but the 747 is acceptable. The approved aircraft are those that have a MTOW of 300,000 to 1,000,000. The A380 exceeds that MTOW range and the AOA says as much. You can read it here:


    The USAF knew we (NA KOA) were proposing a 747 platform for the KC-X. They even suggested we participate in the RFI process and we did. When Boeing told NA KOA in Sept. 2006 just days before the draft RFP came out that they (Boeing) would not provide pricing and other information on the 747-8 because they had “indications from service” that the USAF only wanted a medium sized platform, we were surprised as this was contrary to what the USAF had been telling us.

    Because of Boeing’s refusal — we could no longer participate in the competition and this matter is still an unresolved point of contention between NA KOA, Boeing and the USAF. We should also point out here that Boeing’s decision with NA KOA on aircraft size was months before the USAF finalized their controversial “extra credit” language in the final RFP on fuel off-load.

    Since we are on this subject — it is worth noting that Rep. Norm Dicks (WA – D) Boeing’s chief supporter on Capitol Hill has publicly stated that both former USAF Sec. Wynne and his assistant Ken Miller repeatedly told him the USAF only wanted a medium size KC-X platform. So it seems reasonable to consider that this information may have somehow made its way to Boeing and was possibly at the root of Boeing’s decision to deny NA KOA our requested information on the 747 (Boeing later told NA KOA those “indications” were available by a Google search).

    It also seems possible that this why Boeing’s James Albaugh and Rep. Dicks were so angry at the USAF after Boeing lost the competition when they publicly stated that Boeing was “discouraged” from offering the 777 by the USAF and that the USAF “misled” them. It was a “bait and switch”. We should also mention here that the illicit sharing of source-selection information is a violation of the ‘Procurement Integrity Act’ which can be found here:


    It is the same criminal law that got Boeing’s Ms. Druyan and Mr. Sears in trouble during the tanker scandal. The DOD-IG is currently conducting an investigation into these type of issues on programs such as the KC-X, CSAR-X, C-17 and Thunderbirds contracts. As you can see they are very busy.

    Finally — we suggested to the USAF in our RFI and later to Boeing as a teaming arrangement — that they consider an either/or offering of the medium size 767-400ER with belly aux tanks and the GEnx engine along with the large 747-8 which uses the same GEnx engines. This would provide for engine compatibility, increased performance, reduced fuel burn and emissions. It seemed likely that one of these offerings would prevail over those from NG/EADS and as it turns out — we were more insightful than Boeing because according to the USAF “more” is better.

  7. LightWeight 27 August, 2008 at 10:25 am #

    It’ll be more efficient spending money for a 767-200/300 rewinged with -400 one (or -400 if more volume is necessary).

    747-8 GEnx thrust level is sufficient for 195t (-200), 204t (-300), 212t (-400) KC767 MTOW bringing each the KC-30 like 112t of fuel..

    This GEnx can be hold under the -400 wing, 35 cm higher than others 767. (30 cm with landing gear and 5 cm with 777 tires).

  8. ANDREW 27 August, 2008 at 10:44 am #

    An A330 with GEnx is pretty close to the A350mk.1, and as the 350XWB effectively bridged the 787, then an A332F with GEnx becomes pretty irrisistable.

    Unfortunately Boeing simply have nothing on the table to offer at this time. The 777F would be too expensive, and very late.

    Maybe US should seek offsets for US industry in exchange for the KC30 based tanker contract going to NG/EADS.

    I cannot see a need for a second tanker bid to replace the KC10, as the KC30 does it all, particularly with GEnx.

  9. LightWeight 27 August, 2008 at 5:22 pm #

    If 112 t are the maximum fuel load request (the maximum capability of a KC-30 limited to 235 t MTOW), any KC767 I talk at 10:25 AM is cheaper because lighter, cheaper to sustain and to fly over 40 years (less fuel consumption, even less with GEnx).
    A KC-30:
    -40t heavier than a KC767-200
    -31t ” ” ” KC767-300
    -23t ” ” a KC767-400

    Did the taxpayer hear at the hangar door?…

  10. Puppethead 28 August, 2008 at 12:58 pm #

    I believe the 3 step process is actually:
    KC-X replaces KC-135E
    KC-Y replaces KC-135R
    KC-Z replaces KC-10A
    which makes sense, given that was basically the acquisition order of the legacy types (even if the KC-135Rs were re-engined after the KC-10As were delivered).

    As a side note, I’ve wondered what would happen if Boeing added a pair of the wing weapons pylons from the P-8A to the C-40, made them wet and loaded them with buddy refuelling pods from the F/A-18E? Maybe with an extra belly tank or 2 from the BBJ. It might give the Navy some nice little tactical tankers, reducing their reliance on the RAF, Omega and a reluctant USAF…

  11. ikkeman 28 August, 2008 at 1:16 pm #

    surely, a mixed 330/777 buy is in order.
    The 332 (F?) would replace the kc-135, while the 777 replaces the kc-10 (in the KC-Z competition, 10 to 15 years away).

    It’s simply a matter of boeing and airbus having done a good job on product differentiation. If you really think a 767 can carry as much cargo (fuel or pax) as a 330, while beeing structurally lighter, please explain why nobody is buying the 767 while the 330 sells good.
    It’s not because the 330 is cheaper – see the AB/BA listprices,
    It’s not because they’re easyer on maintenance: according to many (US) commenters on other sites the 330 is a disposable hangar queen.

    If the AF replaces their medium tankers with 777 they basically loose the option of buying bigger… the 747/380 just seem to big to me

    BTW how could boeing believe teh AF didn’t want a bigger plane? The rand study clearly states that the preferable replacement would be anything in the 300k-lb to 1000k-lb range. The 767AT at 400k-lb is clearly on the small side.

  12. Turbineguy 28 August, 2008 at 3:04 pm #

    NA KOA touched on something I’ve been wondering about for a while now. If the KC-45A won in part because of its larger size & greater cargo capacity, why would Boeing base their tanker on the 767-200 and not the larger 767-300 or -400?

    I doubt a mixed tanker purchase is a good idea because of fleet commonality. The USAF operates two tanker types now, and isn’t their goal to reduce costs by only having one type ultimately?

  13. LightWeight 28 August, 2008 at 4:28 pm #

    Turbineguy, I agree for only one tanker type.

    So, 767 is the good size. It seem Boeing wait for new RFP details to know what cargo volume and fuel load USAF want, to choice 767 length and maximum take off weight

  14. Victor 29 August, 2008 at 11:47 am #

    At the end of the day the better platform won. Now more money is being wasted on a second round. Boeing will lose again even if they change their aircraft, as if Airbus/Northrop offer the A330-200F instead, then they will trump them again.
    Its funny that Boeing lost because they made the wrong platform selection. Now they say they may change it to win the competion. Thats like an Olympic relay team using their weaker team members in an early round, getting knocked out, than appealing saying they actually have quicker runners who they didnt use, so can they re-run the race!
    The chap is right who said the A330 to replace the 135s and the 777 to replace the KC-10s.

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